Biden’s ratings are rocked by chaos in Kabul but the US appreciated NZ’s contribution to the evacuation

The war in Afghanistan is over after 20 years, according to a defiant speech by President Joe Biden, but the withdrawal  has left him and his administration wobbling.

Biden’s  personal poll ratings are now at 36%, down from 50% previously, while those of his vice president Kamala Harris are only 46% and she is failing to make political headway.

He faces strong domestic challenges. The House and Senate have passed two bills to fund infrastructure and a huge $US3 billion bill to fund a rang of measures from healthcare through education to social welfare.  The latter is mired in internal Democratic party struggles, largely because Biden wants to fund it largely through raising taxes from an average 23% to 28% and capital gains to 43%.

This sticks in the craws of moderate Democrats and most Republicans and is unlikely to proceed in its current form.

Later in 2022 the US will hold mid-term elections and already the parties are gearing up. The Democrats need lose only five seats in the lower house to surrender control to the Republicans (and end the career of Speaker Nancy Pelosi) while the Republicans need to gain only one seat in the Senate to control the upper house. This would leave Biden a lame duck.

On past results over 60 years, the party holding the White House also loses the lower house.

But  let’s get back to the war. Continue reading “Biden’s ratings are rocked by chaos in Kabul but the US appreciated NZ’s contribution to the evacuation”

Why farmers will be hoping for a better FTA agreement with the Brits than the Aussies secured

Reports  this  week  indicate that  New Zealand is  getting  closer  to a  free  trade  deal  with  the  UK.  Trade Minister  Damien O’Connor says  NZ’s negotiators  have been working around the clock to reach the shared objective of an FTA agreement in principle by the end of August.

The problem, as  Point of Order understands it,  is that  NZ has  been  offered  the  same arrangements as  Australia  on  agricultural products,  with  a  phase-out  of  tariffs  over  11  years.

As  NZ trade  expert  Stephen Jacobi argues:

“It would be absolutely ridiculous if we were to enter into an FTA with the UK that did not put forward the prospect of free trade, zero tariffs in lamb and beef and dairy within a reasonable timeframe.”

Britain’s Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, says teams are working around the clock to get the deal done in the coming weeks.

“We are both big fans of each other’s high-quality products, so this could be a huge boost that allows British shoppers to enjoy lower prices and British exports to be even more competitive,” she said.

“NZ and the UK are natural partners united by modern values. An agreement would reflect those ideals and is a win-win for both countries.” Continue reading “Why farmers will be hoping for a better FTA agreement with the Brits than the Aussies secured”

Damien O’Connor appoints trade advisory group – this one is much smaller than the predecessor appointed by Parker

Oh look – another advisory group to keep its minister and the public up with the play on trade policy matters.

As our Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Damien O’Connor has appointed a Trade for All Ministerial Advisory Group “to help chart the course for New Zealand trade policy”.

This group’s establishment follows on from the work completed by the Trade for All Advisory Board in 2019.

The difference is that the earlier group – appointed in 2018, when David Parker had the portfolio – comprised 23 members.  The new group comprises 13 members, which is good for the budget no matter what else it might accomplish.

Its announcement was included among the latest Beehive press releases:

Latest from the Beehive

The discovery of rare, long-tail bats/pekapeka near Franz Josef for the first time in decades is exciting proof that the Government’s Jobs for Nature and predator free programmes are getting results, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says.

Significant progress is being made on new infrastructure at Mt Aspiring College for present and future students and teachers, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says.

Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor has appointed a Trade for All Ministerial Advisory Group to help chart the course for New Zealand trade policy. Continue reading “Damien O’Connor appoints trade advisory group – this one is much smaller than the predecessor appointed by Parker”

O’Connor (like the Black Caps) will deserve a victory parade if he can secure a trade deal with the UK that outscores Australia’s

The  government  has  been  beating  the drum on the  prospects  for  a  free  trade  deal with the United Kingdom, which it claims  is part  of the wider work  it is undertaking to support New Zealand’s economic recovery from Covid-19.

Following  Trade Minister Damien O’Connor’s sessions  with UK Trade Secretary Truss in London to push along the bilateral negotiation, officials’ teams will spend the coming weeks finalising FTA details with the aim of reaching agreement in principle in August.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta told Parliament NZ  is working to achieve a high quality comprehensive trade deal.

“Our priority is a deal that delivers benefits for all New Zealanders. That includes seeking elimination on all tariffs over commercially meaningful time frames, and that takes account of our ambition across the agricultural sector”. Continue reading “O’Connor (like the Black Caps) will deserve a victory parade if he can secure a trade deal with the UK that outscores Australia’s”

Here’s hoping Damien O’Connor can strike a trade deal with the UK on terms similar to those secured by the Aussies

We have had the chance to scan the new Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade agreement and – if Trade Minister Damien O’Connor can negotiate similar terms for us – the prospects look hearteningly good for NZ.

Beef and sheep meat tariffs on Australian exports to the UK will be eliminated after 10 years. Sugar tariffs will be removed after eight years, and dairy tariffs after five years.

Short and medium grain milled rice will get immediate duty-free access once the FTA is in place.

During the countdown to tariff-free trade, Australian producers will gain incremental access to the British market.  Beef producers gain immediate access to a duty-free quota of 35,000 tonnes (rising to 110,000 tonnes a  year in a decade).  With sugar exports, producers have immediate access to a duty-free quota of 80,000 tonnes, rising by 20,000 tonnes each year.

Dairy farmers will also have access during the transition period to a duty-free quota for cheese of 24,000 tonnes. This will rise to 48,000 tonnes by year five. Continue reading “Here’s hoping Damien O’Connor can strike a trade deal with the UK on terms similar to those secured by the Aussies”

Let’s wish O’Connor well, as he dines with UK Minister in quest to secure a free trade deal – but Aussies are higher in the queue

Trade minister Damien O’Connor dines with his UK counterpart Liz Truss tomorrow  to begin the heavy-lifting on a NZ-UK free trade agreement.

The early signs are ominous.  Ozzie PM Scott Morrison managed to attend part of the G7 meeting in Cornwell where Australia’s FTA agreement was raised with the UK’s Boris Johnson.

Morrison says he’s waiting for ‘the right deal’ before the UK-Australia free trade agreement (FTA) is finalised, and the UK is eager to launch its post-Brexit economy by securing free trade agreements covering 80% of its trade within the next three years.

The UK Department for International Trade believes a trade deal could secure an additional £900 million ($1.6 billion) in exports to Australia.

In 2019-20, two-way goods and services trade was valued at $36.7 billion, making the UK Australia’s fifth-largest trading partner, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Morrison hopes to finalise the FTA tomorrow if certain issues can be dealt with.

But elements of the Australian FTA have created alarm within the UK. The National Farmers’ Union publicly begged for tariffs to remain on Australian beef and sheep.

NFU president Minette Batters says a tariff-free trade deal with Australia will jeopardise UK farming and could cause the demise of many, many beef and sheep farms throughout the UK.

There are several challenges for NZ.  It’s just as well, therefore, that O’Connor is accompanied by NZ trade supremo Vangelis Vitaly, a recognised world authority on trade policy.  Continue reading “Let’s wish O’Connor well, as he dines with UK Minister in quest to secure a free trade deal – but Aussies are higher in the queue”

Budget pumps $1.3bn into railways but almost forgets farmers while Fonterra delivers the economy-boosting goods

Farmers    who  believed   Labour  when it  said  it wanted  to  double  agricultural  exports may have experienced  a  sense  of  disillusion as  they  absorbed the  messages  of  Budget 2021.  While  the  government  is  allocating $1.3bn to modernise rail infrastructure and  build locos  and  wagons in Dunedin,  it  could find  only  $62m  for  agriculture.

Someone  has  calculated  that  the country’s 40,000 farm businesses, if they shared the $62m, would each receive $1550 or $29 a week (less than the ongoing minimum benefit increase).

This  comparatively meagre  sum   is  to be  applied as  follows:

  • $37m towards a national integrated farm planning system for farmers and growers.
  • $24m towards agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation research and development.
  • $900,000 to collect vital statistics on agricultural production, such as greenhouse gas emissions.

Critics may  conclude   the small outlay for agriculture reflects Agriculture Minister Damien  O’Connor’s influence in Cabinet.  Others  may  see it as  evidence  of the traditional antipathy of Labour MPs  towards  farmers. Continue reading “Budget pumps $1.3bn into railways but almost forgets farmers while Fonterra delivers the economy-boosting goods”

O’Connor opts for a ban on exports of live beasts (rather than tighter regulations) to demonstrate our high animal-welfare standards

Commodities are leading the global economic recovery. International demand for grains, dairy and forestry products is extremely strong – driven primarily by increased demand from China, ANZ Bank  economists say in their latest NZ Agri Focus.

Dairy markets shot up in March, driven by strong buying from China, among challenging conditions to deliver product to market. Since then prices have stabilised near current levels, encouragingly, despite more product being added to the GlobalDairyTrade sales channel.

The recent strength in global markets, combined with a slight softening in the NZ dollar. has been supportive of farmgate milk prices.

“We are forecasting $7.70/kg MS for this season and $7.30/kg MS for next season,”  the  report  says.

If cumulatively it has been a remarkably good  season  for the  dairy  industry, results  have   been more  varied for  the processing companies and  for  individual  farmers.

Synlait and A2 Milk, for example, have not found the going easy,  given  the  impact  of  Covid-19  on the  daigou  trade  with  China.

But Fonterra – as the  principal  player – has  got  back its  mojo    as  industry  leader, with its  finances  in  much  better  shape  under  CEO Miles  Hurrell’s  leadership   than  under  the  previous  regime. Continue reading “O’Connor opts for a ban on exports of live beasts (rather than tighter regulations) to demonstrate our high animal-welfare standards”

Good news for horticulture: govt is ploughing $8m into research to develop leaf protein concentrate

Damien  O’Connor, the  minister  who earlier this year distinguished himself   by  telling  the Australian  government to  show  more “respect” in its  dealings  with  China, has  at  last won a  battle in  Cabinet. He  got  his  colleagues,  some of  whom are always reluctant to do  anything to help the country’s primary industries and  farmers, to  agree  to  support a new programme to lead New Zealand’s plant protein sector development.

The government is partnering with Lincoln-based  Leaft Foods on a $20m research and development programme that could put NZ on the map as a leading leaf protein concentrate producer.

Through its Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund, the Ministry for Primary Industries is contributing $8m to the five-year programme to develop technology that extracts edible protein from NZ grown green leafy crops.

Leaft Foods’ technology will be used to produce high-quality protein in the form of gels or powders that can be used in a range of foods in the fast-growing global market for plant proteins. Continue reading “Good news for horticulture: govt is ploughing $8m into research to develop leaf protein concentrate”

Biosecurity Minister shows signs of a foot-in-mouth affliction – it doesn’t require culling but will he be put out to pasture?

According to his critics, Damien O’Connor may well have contracted a nasty dose of foot-in-mouth disease.

Whether his personal struggle with the condition is good or bad for a bloke who happens to be our Minister of Biosecurity is arguable.  The portfolio requires the Minister and his ministry to ensure against foot-and-mouth disease sneaking into the country (among a formidable list of threatening pests and diseases).

Foot-and-mouth is much more virulent than foot-in-mouth and an outbreak on our farms would be calamitous for the economy.

Foot-in-mouth, on the other hand, is common among politicians and tends to be more damaging to the afflicted politician and his/her party than to the national economy.

Accordingly, when it is detected, the authorities do not declare an emergency and immediately put down the politician and cull every other beast within a certain distance, as would happen with livestock, although a polls-sensitive PM might be tempted to demote the culprit and put him or her out to pasture on the back benches.

Mind you, a politician might be accused by Opposition politicians or media commentators of having foot-in-mouth disease when others think the accused politician’s remarks were eminently sensible.

Damien O’Connor found himself embroiled in a trans-Tasman brouhaha when he suggested Australia could improve its relationship with China by following this country’s lead and showing more respect to the Asian powerhouse. Continue reading “Biosecurity Minister shows signs of a foot-in-mouth affliction – it doesn’t require culling but will he be put out to pasture?”