New Zealand expects a free-trade agreement with the European Union to be concluded within two years, Trade Minister Todd McClay says.
Both parties have finalised their negotiating mandates while European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced he is seeking approval to launch negotiations and then conclude the agreement by 2019.
"It's extremely important the European Commission and New Zealand have completed this next step," Mr McClay said.
He said an FTA would significantly boost trade with the EU.
"Two-way trade with the EU is worth more than $20 billion a year and creates thousands of jobs and opportunities for every region and city of New Zealand," he said.
Mr Juncker's announcement the EU wants to conclude its agreement with New Zealand and also Australia by 2019 means it could nip in ahead of the UK, Reuters reports.
The UK has also been looking to set up trade deals with both countries but cannot negotiate its own agreements until it leaves the EU in March 2019.
With the United States taking a more protectionist "America First" stance under President Donald Trump, the EU is seeking to capitalise by working with countries, like New Zealand, to set up new trade opportunities, according to Reuters.
Before it joined the EU in 1973, Britain was New Zealand's biggest export market