Developments overseas account for much of the latest ministerial announcements and speeches posted on The Beehive website.
The good news (at first blush) is that New Zealand and the United Kingdom have signed a Free Trade Agreement. The two governments are aiming for this to enter into force by the end of the year, after both partners have ratified it through their respective parliaments.
The bad news – grim would be a better word – is that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report is a stark reminder of why New Zealand should brace for the worst effects of climate change.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta meanwhile has posted New Zealand’s Statement to the UN Human Rights Council which condemns Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. And again, Vladimir Putin has not been named, as if denying him the oxygen of publicity might change things.
Back on the home front, the Government has announced it is removing the self-isolation requirements for vaccinated travellers to New Zealand and enabling Kiwis to come here from the rest of the world sooner.
It also is stepping in to support local communities build up tourism facilities through a new funding round with a special focus on Matariki commemorations. The sum of $16.5 million was allocated for this funding round in the $200 million Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Reset Plan last year.
And the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine will soon be available to people aged 18 and over, following Cabinet’s confirmation yesterday.
Drilling down a bit into the Beehive statements, first, the good trade news.
Four bullet points highlight key points in the statement from the PM and her Trade Minister on the free trade agreement (FTA) with the United Kingdom:
- UK to eliminate all tariffs on New Zealand exports, with duties removed on 99.5 percent of current trade from entry into force.
- Boost to New Zealand’s GDP estimated between $700 million and $1 billion
- NZ exporters to save approximately $37 million per year on tariff elimination alone from day one.
- Significant new duty-free quota access for beef, sheep meat, butter and cheese – with all quotas and tariffs removed after 5-15 years.
The FTA was signed in London by Damien O’Connor and the UK Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan.
“This is a gold-standard free trade agreement,” the PM said.
“Virtually all our current trade will be duty free from entry into force, including duty-free quotas for key products like meat, butter and cheese, helping to accelerate our economic recovery.”
She further said this is our first bilateral trade agreement to include a specific article on climate change and includes provisions towards eliminating environmentally harmful subsidies, such as harmful fossil fuel subsidies, and prohibiting fisheries subsidies which lead to overfishing.
Did the Treaty of Waitangi come into considerations? Of course.
The FTA includes a ground-breaking Māori Trade and Economic Cooperation chapter that will create a platform for cooperation on issues important to Māori.
O’Connor said that as soon as the agreement takes effect, it will cut costs for exporters and create opportunities for New Zealand businesses to grow and diversify their trade.
Our largest export to the UK is wine – approximately $500 million. Overnight $14 million of wine tariffs will evaporate.
New Zealand’s honey exporters will no longer face a $16 duty for every $100 worth of honey they send to the UK.
For the first time since the 1970s, our dairy and red meat sectors will, have tariff-free access that will grow through significant quotas until being fully liberalised.
Administratively burdensome and costly barriers that will benefit the likes of our wine exporters have been removed.
More than 290 environmentally beneficial products have been prioritised for tariff elimination – the largest environment goods list ever agreed in the world for an FTA.
The UK was New Zealand’s seventh largest trading partner pre-COVID, with two-way trade worth $6 billion to March 2020. The FTA also includes commitments on the movement of business persons, making it easier to do business in the UK.
Just how much good will be done by the specific article on climate change and provisions towards eliminating environmentally harmful subsidies is open to question.
We mention that because Climate Change Minister James Shaw says the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report is a stark reminder of why New Zealand needs to plan for the worst effects of climate change.
“This latest report is unequivocal about the adverse impacts of climate change and how we’ll need to adapt the way we live in a warmer world. Here in Aotearoa – where every year sees a new set of broken temperature records – we can expect more droughts, fires, storms, and floods. More lives and livelihoods on the line.
“Put simply, we need to see a huge step change in our approach to climate adaptation in Aotearoa – and later this year the Government will consult New Zealanders on a national adaptation plan to do just that,” said James Shaw.
Shaw says reducing greenhouse gas emissions and limiting global warming to 1.5°C can reduce projected losses and damages, but cannot eliminate them all. The need to prepare for the climate impacts that are locked in is “critical” and
“ … we mustn’t lose sight of the urgent need to lower our emissions. The next ten years is make or break for the planet, and the severity with which we will experience climate change can be lessened if we do all we can to limit warming.”
The government “very soon” will release New Zealand’s first Emissions Reduction Plan, which will outline the changes we need to make across every sector to lower emissions and limit catastrophic warming.
Nanaia Mahuta meanwhile was expressing this country’s view of the crisis triggered by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
At Point of Order, we were hoping she would launch vituperatively and robustly from the start into a strongly worded rebuke of the Russian tyrant in terms he understands. She didn’t. She chirped in te reo about bellbirds:
“Whakarongo ake au ki te tangi a te manu, Tui , Tui Tuia, Tuia i runga, Tuia i raro, Tuia I roto, Tuia I waiho, Tuia i te here tangata, ka rongo te pō, ka rongo te ao, Tuia i te here, i takea mai i hawaiiki tangata, Hawaiiki tau tau, otirā, te hono a wairua, ka puta ki te wheiao, ki te ao mārama, Tihei mauri ora.”
She then provided what we assume is a translation:
[My attention is drawn to the cry of the bellbird that has take refuge upon the olive leaves of peace and it is calling “Bind, join, be united as one” May it be woven above, Enmeshed below, Entwined outside. and within our very beings, Interlaced by threads of humanity, from your ancestors, and from mine, to all gathered today. May there be peace in our darkest times, beckoned by a new day and a harbinger of peace and the sanctity of life]
After that twitter, at last she talked in language that better gels with the outrage which most New Zealanders would want communicated to Putin via the UN:
“Aotearoa New Zealand is a proponent of peace and reconciliation, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“This is a clear act of aggression; a blatant breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; and a violation of international law and the UN Charter by a Permanent Member of the Security Council.
“There is no victor in unjustified and unprovoked aggression.”
She proceeded to inject a curious element of gender discrimination:
“We are witnessing the blatant act of a bully, brutally using its unbridled power to achieve goals at odds with international law. Sadly, women and children are already the innocent victims of this illegal aggression – this cannot be tolerated.”
Is she serious? No men among the innocent victims?
In the upshot, Mahuta repeated New Zealand’s call for Russia to:
- Act consistently with its international obligations;
- Cease military operations in Ukraine;
- Permanently withdraw to avoid a catastrophic and pointless loss of innocent life;
- Take all possible steps to protect civilians in line with international humanitarian law; and
- To return to diplomatic negotiations as a pathway to resolve this conflict.
Latest from the Beehive
New Zealand and the United Kingdom have overnight signed a historic Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that unlocks unprecedented access to the UK market and accelerates New Zealand’s COVID-19 recovery.
New Zealanders will soon be able to access a third type of COVID-19 vaccine, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today.
The government is stepping in to support local communities build up tourism facilities through a new funding round with a special focus on Matariki commemorations.
Minister of Climate Change James Shaw says the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report is a stark reminder of why New Zealand needs to plan for the worst effects of climate change.
Aotearoa New Zealand is a proponent of peace and reconciliation, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Government is removing the self-isolation requirements for vaccinated travellers to New Zealand and enabling Kiwis to come here from the rest of the world sooner.