Reassuring news about this country’s relationship with Australia emerged from the office of Trade Minister Damien O’Connor yesterday after his virtual meeting with his Aussie counterpart.
It was reassuring because of the concerns raised in some quarters after this country (where we pride ourselves on shunning nuclear power) was left out of the new defence pact embracing Australia, the US and UK that will deliver a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines to the Pacific.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responded to news of that alliance by letting the Aussies know their nuclear submarines would not be permitted in New Zealand waters, in accordance with this country’s long-held anti-nuclear stance and laws.
Whatever might happen in terms of New Zealand’s military relationships with Australia, the US and the UK, the joint statement on the economic relationship shows the trans-Tasman trade ministers are still talking to each other.
And their statement reiterated that CER, which they described as one of the most comprehensive trade agreements in the world, underpins the integration of the New Zealand and Australian economies.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, these open economic settings have benefitted exporters and businesses in both countries, contributing to the economic resilience of New Zealand and Australia. Ministers reiterated the importance of the Single Economic Market agenda between Australia and New Zealand to support shared prosperity for our economies, our businesses, and our communities. As part of this agenda, Ministers discussed recent cooperation on supply chains and progress on a Secure Trade Lane that would maximise efficiencies in low-risk goods trade. Ministers also acknowledged the ongoing work in digital trade and e-commerce, science and innovation, circular economy, and Indigenous business collaboration.
The ministers discussed the importance of free movement of people between Australia and New Zealand and highlighted their desire to see further opportunities for travel between Australia and New Zealand as soon as health conditions allow.
They reiterated the commitment made by the New Zealand and Australian Prime Ministers’ to work together on re-opening to our Pacific neighbours when it is safe to do so and on systems that would enable a safe reopening to other parts of the world.
But the news media didn’t get too excited by this or any other issues – there were several – aired in the joint statement.
They were preoccupied by the news that the Government accepted the Director General of Health’s advice (which seems to be advice to take a punt) and confirmed that Auckland would move to Alert Level Three at 11:59pm tonight.
Cabinet further accepted his advice for Auckland to stay at Level Three for at least two weeks, with Cabinet first reviewing those setting on Monday 4 October.
For the rest of New Zealand, as long as Auckland is at the higher alert levels of three or four,
“… a greater level of preparedness is needed elsewhere – in other words Level Two.”
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Hon Damien O’Connor MP, New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth, and Hon Dan Tehan MP, Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, met virtually on Monday 20 September to advance trans-Tasman cooperation under the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (CER).
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