South American curbs on beef exports bode well for NZ’s prospects

New Zealand’s beef exports may suddenly be  in high demand from  overseas  markets, in   the  wake  of  the world’s largest beef exporter, Brazil, suspending its beef exports to its No. 1 customer, China, after confirming two cases of “atypical” mad cow disease in two separate domestic meat plants.

China and Hong Kong buy more than half of Brazil’s beef exports.   NZ’s  sales are relatively  modest, by comparison, but  reached  36%   of  our total  beef  exports   last  season. 

The  other  big exporter  to  China,  Argentina,  in  June  decided  to   restrict  exports, with the  aim of  boosting domestic  supply.  Argentinian beef exports are to be  limited to 50% of the average monthly volume exported from July to December 2020.

Because  Argentina was the fifth largest beef exporter in 2020 and the second largest supplier to China, its cut in export volumes has the potential to have a significant impact on global beef trade.

NZ   producers  who  were  reported  to be  heading  into spring  with some confidence could  find  prices — which were  already  strong — climbing  even  higher. 

Rabobank,   in  a  recent  report,  says  pricing remained elevated over the past three months. This high pricing comes off the back of strong demand from China and suppressed beef export volumes from Australia,.

The report says Argentina’s restrictions will be reviewed at the end of this month.

Meanwhile   China  is   facing  its  own  problems  through its  poor  job  of  curbing  swine  fever. With  one  of the  world’s   highest rates  of  pork  consumption,  China’s  failure has   wrought  havoc in  its  domestic  supplies,  costing  between $50bn  and $120bn, according  to the Asian  Development  Bank.

If  China   faces  years-long  disruption in  pork  supplies, as  some reports  suggest,  ,  the  outlook for    beef producers, here   and  with other  exporters,   should  shine  even  more  brightly.  

Afghanistan: China and Russia will be strong influences on the Taliban as they fill void left by the US and its allies

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This article has been contributed by CHRISTIAN NOVAK, who has undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in history from the University of Sydney.  He is working for a private company in Wellington in a government relations role.  

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While attention has been focused largely on the US and its allies as they abandoned Afghanistan, China and Russia have been waiting in the wings to fill the void.  From energy and construction projects to military and diplomatic initiatives, both countries will be an integral part of any international effort to influence and/or reign in Taliban behaviour.

Although Beijing senses an opportunity to press its belt and road interests, it worries that the disorder created by the Taliban could spill over the narrow border it shares with Afghanistan into Xinjiang province.  Indeed, the Taliban has long acquiesced to the presence of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which contains Muslim Uyghurs from Xinjiang – where more than 1 million are being held in “re-education” programmes.

When Taliban representatives travelled to Tianjin for a two-day visit in July, the delegation assured China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, that it would “not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against China”. Beijing, in turn, reiterated its commitment to not interfere in the country’s internal affairs.

But such goodwill doesn’t immediately translate to trust. Over the past two decades, Uighurs have launched several terror attacks in China in pursuit of their own independent state.  As a result, Beijing will be watching on closely to see if Taliban leaders can bring some sort of control to the beleaguered country.

But Beijing remains pragmatic and is prepared to exercise patience in pursuit of potential returns, such as its Mes Aynak concession.

Back in 2007, the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation won rights to lease the giant Mes Aynak copper ore deposit in Afghanistan, which is said to be the second largest in the world. Continue reading “Afghanistan: China and Russia will be strong influences on the Taliban as they fill void left by the US and its allies”

Will China’s communist party complete a second century?

The Economist has marked the 100th birthday of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with one of its context-rich historical essays.  It puts its money on the side of the party’s continuing adaptability and resilience.  This is probably the orthodox position.  But, as the Economist’s editorial staff themselves say when hedging their bets, only time will tell.

The more optimistic among us might look beyond the party’s seemingly-monolithic strength and see it – in pleasingly Marxist terms – as a prisoner of its own fundamental contradictions.

Continue reading “Will China’s communist party complete a second century?”

While Hipkins gets more vaccine for war on Covid-19, Little fires verbal shots to stem cyber attacks (but China is riled by “smear”)

The government was battling on several fronts yesterday, just a few weeks after Defence Minister Peeni Henare acknowledged a $20 billion spend-up on defence had become a casualty of budgetary measures to deal with Covid-19 and its consequences.

The Defence budget was now much tighter, and defence would look different under Labour than it did under its coalition with New Zealand First, he said.

No matter.  A well-armed defence force is not all we require to keep us safe, keep our enemies at bay, or fight the wars the government wants to wage.

The Department of Conservation’s war is against predators and Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says the government is throwing $4 million into a project aimed at eradicating predators from the three main peninsulas in the Bay of Islands.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, in the vanguard of the war against the pandemic, has been freshly supplied to fortify our defences against Covid-19.  The largest shipment of the Pfizer vaccine to date has arrived in New Zealand two days ahead of schedule.

Doses are being delivered to vaccination centres around the country.

On the diplomatic front, Phil Twyford, our Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control, addressed a bunch of diplomats to spell out the government’s position on disarmament and weapons control.

Success with this policy – the disarming of all foes and potential foes and a global declaration of a commitment to eternal world peace- obviously would enable the government to cut its Defence budget back to zero.

But as we learned from Andrew Little, Minister Responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau, we have more to worry about than the firepower other countries might bring to bear against us. Continue reading “While Hipkins gets more vaccine for war on Covid-19, Little fires verbal shots to stem cyber attacks (but China is riled by “smear”)”

Money is tight for some things on Ardern’s watch – her Defence Minister has signalled a fiscal assault on military spending

Labour  Defence  Minister  Peeni Henare  has  signalled the  government  is  planning  to  trim   the defence  budget.  He says Covid-19 means the Budget is now much tighter and defence will look different under Labour than it did under its coalition with NZ First.   

This  comes as  Australia, New Zealand’s primary ally,  is pursuing a defence strategy aimed at countering the rise of China, while warning that Australia faces regional challenges on a scale not seen since World War II.  

Australia is  re-equipping  its  armed  forces  with a  10-year  budget  of  $A270m. But  for NZ, the  planned $20bn outlay on  new defence equipment  is the latest Covid-19 casualty, with a range of options to scale it down now before the finance minister.

The major investment in a range of new military hardware and upgrade was announced by former Defence Minister and NZ First MP Ron Mark in 2019 .

Henare says that when he got the job last year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern “was quite clear that she wanted Labour, us, to put our fingerprint on defence”, but what that looks like would be influenced by Covid-19. Continue reading “Money is tight for some things on Ardern’s watch – her Defence Minister has signalled a fiscal assault on military spending”

Yes, we could try to be world-beaters in tackling climate change, but the reason for wanting to set the pace is unclear

Ministers in the Ardern  government  are getting to grips  with  the  Climate Change  Commission report  which,  if  adopted  in  full, will  reshape the  NZ way of life. Some say if all the  recommendations  the  commission  has  framed  are  applied, it will put NZ in the  vanguard  of the  battle  against global warming.

Just  why this country should want to be  among  the  front-runners,  and  possibly  the first,  to  meet  its  commitment  under  the  Paris  agreement to reach zero carbon emissions   by 2050  is  not  exactly  clear.

Nor may  there  be any  deep  conviction  that  the  Ardern government has  the  capacity to deliver  the   most  appropriate  measures  to  meet  its  climate  targets, given  its  long  list  of  policy  failures  including  Kiwi  Build, wiping out homelessness, eliminating child  poverty, and improving mental health, not to  mention the  Covid  vaccination  rollout.

NZ’s CO2 emissions are considerably less than those in the US and Australia (which is among the highest in the world). Transport makes up 33% of NZ’s “long lived” gases. Continue reading “Yes, we could try to be world-beaters in tackling climate change, but the reason for wanting to set the pace is unclear”

Ardern says the right things about China but Foreign Affairs calls for more ministerial time and Defence needs a bigger budget

It has taken nearly eight months of her prime ministership but finally the outlines of Jacinda Ardern’s foreign policy are beginning to take shape.

The Queenstown summit was a great success. You couldn’t have slipped a finer tissue paper between Ardern and Aussie PM Scott Morrison on China, the Indo-Pacific and regional security.

And Five-Eyes?

Perhaps not the latter because it is still not clear how this government views this age-old arrangement which began as a post-World War II intelligence-sharing exchange.

Ardern and her part-time foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta started off by claiming it should be kept as an intelligence-only organisation. Continue reading “Ardern says the right things about China but Foreign Affairs calls for more ministerial time and Defence needs a bigger budget”

China, CER, co-operation and Covid-19 will be on the agenda when Anzac leaders meet in Queenstown

Scott Morrison  may  be  looking for a  break  after a  tough year  when he arrives in Queenstown at  the weekend,  but there’s  a  heavy  agenda  awaiting him.  It’s time  for Australia  and  NZ  to  rekindle  the  spirit  of  CER,  as  they battle the  aftermath  of the Covid pandemic, and  confront an  increasingly assertive global  power  in  China.

The visit will be the first face-to-face meeting between Ardern and her Australian counterpart since NZ shut its borders due to the pandemic. Morrison last met with Ardern in Sydney in late-February 2020, the day the first Covid-19 case was discovered in NZ.

Ardern,  announcing the  visit, said the Covid-19 recovery, regional and security issues would be discussed.  Those  issues  have  become  more  acute.

On  one  side  there  is  growing evidence that  the  pandemic  arose  not  from transmission  from animals  in  Wuhan, but  from a state-owned laboratory  in that  city.

On  another front,  both  countries  are  making  only  slow progress  with their  vaccination  programmes  (which opens  up  the  issue:  why didn’t  the two  governments  co-operate   in setting  up  a joint programme  to  produce  under  licence  one or  more  of the vaccines?). Continue reading “China, CER, co-operation and Covid-19 will be on the agenda when Anzac leaders meet in Queenstown”

How to sort out our differences with China – sometimes it’s best done in private, says the PM

Neither dragons nor taniwha were mentioned when the PM addressed the China Business Summit.  Nor did we learn anything fresh about New Zealand’s foreign and trade policy.

Jacinda Ardern kicked off by setting out three key messages.

  • China’s geostrategic relevance is a reality that no country can ignore;
  • New Zealand and China have very different perspectives on some issues, and managing those differences effectively calls for hard work; and
  • Opportunities continue for New Zealand and China to work together, particularly in international trade, environment and climate change, and in their response to the global pandemic.

She acknowledged that New Zealand’s relationship with China is one of our most significant.

Our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership continues to provide a strong foundation for the relationship.  We remain committed to our one China policy. Continue reading “How to sort out our differences with China – sometimes it’s best done in private, says the PM”

The view of Mahuta’s speech from across the Tasman: we are selling out our neighbours – and the West – to pander to Beijing

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta was  probably expecting  her speech this week  on New Zealand’s policy  towards  China  to be  widely  read, but not to have  produced  the  savage   reactions  it  did in some  quarters.

In our examination  of  the  speech, Point  of  Order  drew  attention  to how  Mahuta  had  delivered  a  poke  in the  eye  to  NZ’s  allies — and  sure  enough,  this  was  the feature   which got most  attention  across the  ditch.

At  home  the ACT  party was  fired  up by  praise  for the  speech  from  China.  It  found this approval,  coming from a communist dictatorship, as “deeply concerning”.

ACT’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Brooke van Velden says it’s hard to imagine how Nanaia Mahuta could fail harder than being praised by a communist dictatorship and shunned by  democratic allies.

She  noted international media are commenting that NZ has “broken with its Five Eyes partners as it pursues a closer alliance with China” and that “Five Eyes becomes four”. Continue reading “The view of Mahuta’s speech from across the Tasman: we are selling out our neighbours – and the West – to pander to Beijing”