Numbers, quotas and ratios have been high in ministerial considerations over the past 24 hours or so.
Export revenue to the EU will grow by up to $1.8 billion annually on full implementation of the trade deal being ballyhooed by the PM and her Trade Minister.
More than 57,000 light-electric and Non Plug-in Hybrid vehicles were registered in the first year of operation of the Government’s Clean Car Discount Scheme, the most on record, Transport Minister Michael Wood brayed.
Seventy new constables heading for the frontline after Police wing 355 graduated in Porirua brought the total number of new officers since Labour took office to 3,303, Police Minister Chris Hipkins boasted.
Winter by-elections are rarely kind to governments. But Boris Johnson’s Conservative party held on to a south London stronghold on a low turnout with a tolerably-reduced majority.
More worrying was that 1,400 voters got out of bed (one presumes) on a bitterly cold day to vote for the relatively anonymous candidate of a rebranded populist Reform party. That’s about as many as the Greens and Liberals could manage between them.
After two years of setting the agenda, the talk now is of Boris losing his grip. But might it be the change in his agenda?
Tyrants prefer to move when their enemies are weak, divided or both. So no surprise to see Russia’s Vladimir Putin fresh from his triumph in coercing Moldova, to stirring up trouble in the Balkans, supporting Belarus’s migrant-based diplomacy, blackmailing the EU over energy supplies this winter, and ratcheting up the threat of military action against Ukraine.
Well, that’s the view from the London-based Daily Telegraph, which points out that Putin has been sending clear and consistent messages, (punctuated by use of force in Georgia, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine):
In some places they measure the past in millennia. In Athens, history emerges every time you dig a hole.
This year Greece marks the 2,500th anniversary of the battle of Plataea. Less celebrated than the engagements a year earlier at Thermopylae and Salamis but more decisive in its outcome, it marks the end of the Persian attempt at dominance and the beginning of fifty immortal years for Athens, before the death of Pericles and the hubris of the Peloponnesian war.
Trade Minister Damien O’Connor has revived hopes that New Zealand can land a free trade agreement with the UK this year and another one subsequently with the EU, following his just- concluded mission to European capitals.
Farm lobbies had not been confident when he set out. In the case of the UK we had been beaten to the punch by Australia.
It seemed unlikely NZ could get anything better than their Australian counterparts who appeared willing to accept a long phaseout on duties on, in particular, most farm products, including dairy.
Since then Australia has entered the AUKUS pact, which particularly riled France’s President Macron because Australia’s decision to acquire nuclear submarines from the US meant cancellation of a previous (very expensive) deal to buy French diesel-powered submarines.
So one of the major thrusts of O’Connor’s mission became advancing free trade negotiations with the EU.
PM Jacinda Ardern is planning a major visit to Europe next month. Details have yet to be announced but she is expected to visit Paris, Brussels and possibly Berlin.
She is heading NZ’s campaign to secure a free trade agreement with the European Union. First visit is likely to be Paris where she will have a warm welcome from President Emmanuel Macron. This couldn’t come at a more appropriate time.
The French are feeling bruised over the Australia-UK-US nuclear submarine agreement and the cancellation of the $80 billion contract to build French nuclear submarines converted to diesel-electric power in Adelaide. France has already signalled it would not impede a NZ-EU trade pact.
But it’s worth noting that the UK commentators seem to be excising the prefix ‘free’ from the ‘trade agreement’, perhaps reflecting better understanding that these days there is no free trade without a substantial regulatory component.
While NZ’s producers will no doubt be grateful if they get an Australian-style phased reduction of tariffs and quotas as has been briefed, the non-tariff/quota regulatory barriers will be just as important in the long run.
That at least would seem to be the view of the eminent organ, the Irish Farmers Journal, in its assessment of the currently-fraught implementation of free trade arrangements between the EU, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain (ie, the UK minus Northern Ireland).
Britain’s new health minister, Sajid Javid, says he will keep wearing a mask after formal restrictions are removed in the next fortnight. It’s a more political than public health gesture. Unless perhaps he’s meeting unvaccinated ministerial visitors from Australia or New Zealand.
Britain’s Covid debate is morphing faster than the virus. Thanks to the fast spreading Delta variant and a super-charged vaccination programme it’s plausible that pretty much everyone bar Scottish lighthouse keepers will have had Covid antibodies delivered to them by the end of the year via neighbours or needle.