We must wait to measure export growth on O’Connor’s watch, but the Three Rs of trade strategy have quickly become four

A fourth pillar has been added to the government’s Trade Recovery Strategy.

When the strategy was launched in June by former Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker, it had “three inter-related elements”.  They were:  supporting exporters;  reinvigorating international trade architecture; and refreshing key trade relationships.

Someone deftly turned this into Three R’s on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website, which says the strategy has three “pillars:  retooling support for exporters; reinvigorating international trade architecture; and refreshing key trade relationships.

In a speech to the Auckland Trade and Economic Policy School, Trade Minister Damien O’Connor added a fourth “R” – “Resilience: Building New Zealand’s Strategic Economic Resilience”.

The speech was among several items posted on The Beehive website since Point of Order last checked on what Ministers have been doing.

Among the others:

  • The Government has received an interim report from the Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-Based Institutions.
  • Local Government Nanaia Mahuta confirmed the Tauranga City Council has been advised of her intention to appoint a Commission in response to significant governance problems among the Council’s elected representatives and the findings of an independent review.
  • Associate Health Minister Aupito William Sio calls on Pacific students studying health or disability-related courses to apply for a Ministry of Health Pacific Health Scholarship.
  • Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced changes are being made to NCEA Level 1 “to ensure it remains a strong, credible qualification that supports young people into employment and further education…”
  • Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has marked World Soil Day (5 December) with a $6.25 million investment in mapping New Zealand’s most valuable soils which are vital to our economic, environmental and social wellbeing.

In his speech to the Auckland Trade and Economic Policy School, O’Connor said COVID-19 had exacerbated many of the international challenges this country’s traders already faced.

COVID-19 responses around the globe have disappointingly been accompanied by a sharp increase in trade distortions – most commonly increases in subsidies.  These make it harder for New Zealand to compete fairly.    

We have seen the effect of these distortions in global trade flows. Initial estimates for the second quarter of 2020 – when the virus and lockdowns spread around the world – indicated a year‑on‑year drop of around 18.5% in the volume of global merchandise trade. 

New Zealand GDP contracted by 2.0 percent in the June 2020 year. This was a much better economic performance than many expected back in February and March. Indeed, since June we’ve seen our economic performance continue to outstrip expectations, with measures such as the Treasury’s New Zealand Activity Index showing economic activity levels in October higher than the same time last year.

However, given recent second waves of COVID-19 in many parts of the world, Treasury now expects the global impacts of COVID-19 to weigh on us for longer, and is forecasting a contraction of 0.5% in 2021.   

But relax, folks.  The Government recognises that – despite the hurdles – trade has the potential to drive the economic recovery from COVID-19.

That’s why it is implementing our Trade Recovery Strategy (the one announced by David Parker in June).

What’s more, now that O’Connor is in charge, the strategy consists of four pillars of work – the Four R’s – to position New Zealand to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic.

  • Retooling Support for exporters
  • Reinvigorating the international trade architecture
  • Refreshing key trade relationships
  • Resilience: Building New Zealand’s Strategic Economic Resilience

O’Connor gave a rundown on the components of each of these pillars, then discussed the “Making Trade for All “ agenda (put in effect  before Covid-19 arrived).

He described it as a trade policy that supports greater engagement and inclusion, but as if to emphasise what is meant by “trade for all” and “inclusion”, he said:

It is a trade policy that fundamentally recognises the role and voice of Māori as treaty partners. We need to ensure the strength of the Māori economy and its trade and investment potential are supported, and that trade delivers for Māori.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta gave expression to this policy approach in her APEC speech earlier in the week, although she more emphatically gave primacy to the Maori component of the “treaty partnership”.

O’Connor went on:

It is a trade policy that supports those institutions and mechanisms that are central to New Zealand’s prosperity through trade – the WTO and its rules-based system, FTAs and regional trade architecture, and open plurilateralism.

It is a trade policy that supports New Zealand companies to internationalise.

And it is a trade policy that works to ensure that the benefits from trade are being shared more evenly to all New Zealanders. 

Our goal is a trade policy that works to support sustainable and inclusive economic development – a ‘triple bottom line’ approach of social, economic and environmental wellbeing. This work is absolutely fundamental and the Government is committed to taking it forward.

We will watch with great interest.

Latest from the Beehive

5 DECEMBER 2020

World Soil Day: valuing our soils key to a better world

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has marked World Soil Day (5 December) with a $6.25 million investment in mapping New Zealand’s most valuable soils which are vital to our economic, environmental and social wellbeing.

 4 DECEMBER 2020

Government receives interim report from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse

The Government has received an interim report from the Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-Based Institutions.

 Minister of Foreign Affairs announces diplomatic appointments to Malaysia and Austria

Foreign Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta has announced Pam Dunn as New Zealand’s next High Commissioner to Malaysia and Brian Hewson as New Zealand’s next Ambassador to Austria and UN Permanent Representative, Vienna.

  Intention to appoint a Commission for Tauranga City Council

Minister of Local Government, Hon Nanaia Mahuta, has confirmed the Tauranga City Council has been advised of her intention to appoint a Commission in response to significant governance problems among the Council’s elected representatives and the findings of an independent review.

Pacific Health Scholarships 2021 about improving access to healthcare for Pacific communities

Associate Minister of Health, Aupito William Sio is calling on any Pacific students studying health or disability-related courses to apply now for a Ministry of Health Pacific Health Scholarship.

 Speech to Auckland Trade and Economic Policy School

 Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I want to recognise the hard work of the University of Auckland’s Public Policy Institute in putting on this event.

3 DECEMBER 2020

NCEA Level 1 changes give students a broader foundation

The Government is making changes to NCEA Level 1 to ensure it remains a strong, credible qualification that supports young people into employment and further education, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

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