Reform of the WTO, food security and climate change are on the agenda as O’Connor heads for Europe

Buzz from the Beehive

Just as soon as he was back on duty, Damien O’Connor was packing his bags for a journey to Europe.

But first he announced a second dollop of dollars for flood-ravaged farmers, this time in the Wairarapa.

Government funding relief for flood-affected Wairarapa farmers and growers

The Government has extended its medium-scale classification of Cyclone Hale to the Wairarapa after assessing storm damage to the eastern coastline of the region.

 This followed his announcement last week of Government support for flood-affected Gisborne Tairāwhiti farmers and growers.

In that case the government is making up to $100,000 available to help coordinate efforts as farmers and growers recover from the heavy rain and subsequent flood damage across the East Coast region.

Inland Revenue has activated its Adverse Event Income Equalisation Scheme for the Gisborne District, enabling farming and forestry businesses to even out income fluctuations by spreading their gross income from year to year.

Yesterday O’Connor announced the government had extended its medium-scale classification of Cyclone Hale to the Wairarapa after assessing storm damage to the eastern coastline of the region.

It is making up to $80,000 available to the East Coast Rural Support Trust to help farmers and growers recover from the significant damage in the region.

This triggers other recovery assistance measures for farmers and growers in the area including tax flexibility with Inland Revenue.

Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty at the weekend also announced a $150,000 contribution to the Mayoral Relief Fund by the Government to help Gisborne communities affected by the storm.

Having done his duty for the farmers and growers as Minister of Agriculture and of Rural Communities, O’Connor made an announcement as Minister of Trade and Export Growth as well as Minister of Agriculture to announce –

Trade and Agriculture Minister to attend World Economic Forum and Global Forum for Food and Agriculture

He kicked off this statement by assuring us the Government is maintaining its strong trade focus in 2023.

The nitty gritty is that he will be visiting Europe to discuss the role of agricultural trade in climate change and food security, WTO reform and New Zealand agricultural innovation.

He will travel today to Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum and associated World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings in Davos, before travelling to Berlin for the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture and meetings with German government and industry leaders.

His press statement included an echo of the forebodings of others who reckon the year ahead will be arduous.

“The global economy is moving through strong headwinds, which will buffet New Zealand this year,” Damien O’Connor said. 

He no doubt is only too aware this is an election year.

Then he explained:

“We’re focussed on supporting our exporters and in particular our primary industries to adapt as issues like climate change challenge all economies. We will also continue to work with like-minded partners to reform the WTO, which will provide stability and benefit for all members.”

The World Economic Forum brings together civil society, business and political leaders annually to discuss some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

This year’s forum theme is ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World’.

O’Connor said this resonates for New Zealand especially as we continue to reconnect with the world following the pandemic

He will participate in a panel on indigenous trade, highlighting New Zealand’s Trade for All agenda (which should go down well with Labour’s Maori caucus).

 He will also hold bilateral meetings with trade counterparts, attend a Swiss-hosted WTO mini-ministerial meeting and a Canada-hosted “Ottawa Group” session on WTO reform.

Another priority for New Zealand is the return to a well-functioning dispute settlement system as a critical and foundational pillar of the WTO.

“The Ottawa Group meeting presents the opportunity to discuss how we work towards this goal with our partners,” Damien O’Connor said. 

He described the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture as a platform to showcase New Zealand’s global leadership and innovation in sustainable agriculture.

The Global Forum for Food and Agriculture is the world’s largest informal conference of agriculture ministers and industry, he said.

New Zealand’s participation enhances our credentials as a global leader in agricultural innovation along with our exporting brand.

“I’m looking forward to discussing partnership opportunities for climate research in agriculture,” Damien O’Connor said.

Both meetings will provide opportunities to lobby for the ratification of the EU-NZ Free Trade Agreement as well as for New Zealand’s candidate for Director General of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), Dr John Barker.

Damien O’Connor will be travelling from today until January 25.

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