Crawford Falconer breaks his silence to say Brexit has given the UK something to say about trade

He has been virtually incognito since 2017 – but Britain’s chief trade negotiator, Crawford Falconer, has finally surfaced amidst the debris of the Brexit wars in London.

London’s Daily Telegraph quotes him as saying Brexit had actually been good for the UK because it had given it something to say on trade.

Falconer has been working on international trade issues for more than 30 years.

He was the New Zealand Government’s leading trade official and served as Ambassador to the WTO.

He also worked for several years at the OECD and the Institute of Policy Studies. Continue reading “Crawford Falconer breaks his silence to say Brexit has given the UK something to say about trade”

Pig catastrophe in China opens opportunities for NZ meat exporters

Many New  Zealanders may  be unaware that China, home to  half the world’s pigs, is suffering  a  catastrophic outbreak of African swine fever.  According  to  one  authoritative estimate, the disease may have  wiped out one-third of the population  of 500m  pigs.

The  London  “Economist”  says  that for as long  as it takes  China’s pig industry  to recover —which may be   years—farmers  elsewhere  may have  cause to  celebrate.  Yet  foreign producers cannot  make up  the vast amount of production  which  will be  lost —and American pig farmers have tariffs imposed on them as part of the ongoing trade  war  with China.

So, as  Point of Order sees it,  a big opportunity is opened for  NZ  food  producers, particularly  meat exporters,  to  be  diverting  as  much of their product  as  they can to  China.

And where’s  Foreign Minister Winston Peters  or  Trade  Minister  David Parker  in  promoting  meat sales to  China? Continue reading “Pig catastrophe in China opens opportunities for NZ meat exporters”

Where does world trade go under Trump (and after)

As trade barriers go up between the US and China, the media seems to be both less certain and less critical in its view of President Trump’s policy. Simon Nixon in The Times says that Trump’s brinksmanship is either a masterstroke or a reckless bluff. Respected financial commentator Gillian Tett in the FT senses that executives are coming round to the view that Trump-style roughhousing may be the only way to deal with Chinese trade practices in areas like protection of intellectual property.

Few are willing to cheer on Trump’s strategy.  Of course this may be because he doesn’t have one.  He has done very well just by calling the flaws in the old policy (you know: no need worry about China’s growing power because they are becoming just like us). Perhaps now he is simply jumping from one tactical expedient to another.

But it may be that he has an idea that US – Chinese strategic rivalry should be a more significant element in international relations.  He might envisage something on the lines of the old US – USSR relationship – trade in commodities and basic manufactures while clamping down on co-operation and investment in higher technologies – trying to preserve US predominance in high tech, software, AI, education and research, engineering and intellectual property.

Continue reading “Where does world trade go under Trump (and after)”

British local body elections shed more light on the Brexit dilemma

Britain’s governing Conservative party got a sound thrashing in local elections last week. This was expected. But the opposition Labour party performed pretty dismally too (see the BBC’s analysis).  Third parties, and independents in particular, won big.

Labour and Conservative party leaders will be pondering what this double rejection means for their discussions on a Brexit compromise. They are thought to be mulling the potential for some combination of Prime Minister Theresa May’s exit deal (which would keep the UK closely aligned with the EU while negotiating preferential trade arrangements) plus guarantees not to agree any important changes before the next general election (which Labour hopes to win).

A compromise on these lines would consist of equal measures of postponement and pretence. This is not to be mocked:  postponement can be a strength and pretence a necessity. Voters often prefer them to reality. But probably not in this case. The public seems unimpressed and getting it through Parliament and the EU would not be easy, according to Matthew d’Ancona in The Guardian.

So what would a real compromise look like?  Essentially a UK outside the EU, but choosing to have close ties and a high level of economic and political alignment on mutually preferential terms. Theresa May’s exit deal was sold on the basis that it was a step towards this but fell down because it left the EU holding blocking cards in the ongoing negotiations. The election results suggest that a realisation is dawning among voters that this sort of compromise is precisely what the EU is ruling out.

So the choices for Britain’s voters are polarising: either stick with the EU (with some of Mrs May’s political window dressing perhaps) or political independence and trade on non-preferential (ie, WTO) terms.  Which makes the decisions even tougher for the broad-based political parties.  The governing Conservatives, if unable to negotiate a real compromise or sell a pretend one, will have to decide, first, if they can stick together and, secondly, if they can deliver a clean Brexit and retain power. Opposition Labour has to come up with an election-winning policy that reconciles current support for the principle of Brexit with a willingness to accept most of the EU’s terms. And the single issue parties are well positioned at both ends of the spectrum so that the voters can easily punish indecision. They look likely to do particularly well in the elections for the European Parliament starting on 23 May (and in which, as long as Brexit is on hold, the British will take part).

Another step to building a modern economy – but an upgraded FTA with China would be welcome, too

Trade and  Export  Growth Minister  David  Parker  returned   to  NZ   on  Saturday  after  what his  PR  flaks   described  as  a  “successful”  official  visit to  China.

So  Point of Order  went  looking  for  the  success.  And yes, he has had  talks with his  ministerial  counterparts  in the trade and  environment  portfolios.

This, according to the press release issued in his name, constituted  “ yet another step  in this government’s  work to  deliver a  modern, sustainable economy  for   New Zealanders”.  

Wow. And no doubt our wellbeing will be lifted, too. Continue reading “Another step to building a modern economy – but an upgraded FTA with China would be welcome, too”

Robertson sounded sanguine about Brexit – but he is urging NZ traders to have contingency plans

Finance Minister Grant Robertson sounded very sanguine about the   impact of Brexit on the New Zealand economy when he  answered  a  “patsy”  question from one of his own  back-benchers  in  Parliament.

He noted NZ and the UK have signed two agreements that will help ensure continuity and stability in the regulatory arrangements underpinning New Zealand’s trade.

But (rather  less  confidently) he added that all NZ businesses which might be affected by Brexit should  consider the implications of the full range of scenarios for their business and ensure that they have contingency plans in place.

Current uncertainty means it is important for us to prepare for the full range of potential outcomes. Treasury’s assessment is that a no-deal Brexit would likely have a small overall negative impact on the NZ economy, mainly due to disruption of some specific NZ businesses and industries. For example, UK tourist numbers could fall, Kiwi goods could face delays at the UK border, and importers could face supply disruptions”. Continue reading “Robertson sounded sanguine about Brexit – but he is urging NZ traders to have contingency plans”

Greens are among the few grinches as political and business leaders welcome CPTPP

Trade and Export Minister David Parker  this week couldn’t disguise  the satisfaction  he  got out of announcing  the CPTPP trade and investment pact  comes into  effect next month.  The  timing means  NZ  will benefit from not one,  but two rounds, of  tariff cuts  almost  immediately  in key markets.

Even though  Labour  was  cool  about the proposed pact when  National  was in power    – and doing the hard yards in negotiations – Parker  can take the  credit for  getting  the  job  done, just as   National  took the  credit for the free  trade pact with China  which the previous  Labour government had initiated.

Continue reading “Greens are among the few grinches as political and business leaders welcome CPTPP”