Plenty of numbers amplify the Beehive’s braying but farmers find fault with EU trade deal and RBNZ appointments are challenged

Buzz from the Beehive

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.

A number – or quota – that seems to have been important  to Finance Minister Grant Robertson is not immediately apparent.  But a cursory reading of the CVs of his new appointments to the board of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand suggests he was aiming for co-governance – or a balance of Maori-non-Maori directors. Three of the seven appointees have tribal affiliations.  A fourth is a director on the Ngai Tahu board. Continue reading “Plenty of numbers amplify the Beehive’s braying but farmers find fault with EU trade deal and RBNZ appointments are challenged”

Late Frost in Brexit Britain

Another sharp take on the resignation of Lord Frost – Boris Johnson’s chief European sherpa – from the folk at Eurointelligence.

Wonk-in-chief Wolfgang Munchau argues Lord Frost was one of the few (perhaps the only one?) of Boris’s close advisers that really understood the needs of a post-Brexit strategy:

“What Brexit requires, first and foremost, is a post-Brexit economic model.”

What model?

Continue reading “Late Frost in Brexit Britain”

Climate change has Boris wilting

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?

Continue reading “Climate change has Boris wilting”

And trouble in the East as well …

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):

Continue reading “And trouble in the East as well …”

History with many zeros

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.  

The funerary dedication to the Persian wars endures in marble fragments in the agora:

Continue reading “History with many zeros”

Geographical Indications are among the sensitive issues for NZ in free-trade talks with EU

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.

Continue reading “Geographical Indications are among the sensitive issues for NZ in free-trade talks with EU”

Lower the drawbridge – the PM is planning to bust out of the NZ bubble to talk trade (among other things) in Europe

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.

European countries generally are concerned at the new nuclear submarine pact.  EU capitals had no prior warning despite President Joe Biden’s expressed desires to repair relations bruised under Donald Trump.  It was also angered by Biden’s failure to alert Europe of his withdrawal from Afghanistan despite the presence of European forces in that country. Continue reading “Lower the drawbridge – the PM is planning to bust out of the NZ bubble to talk trade (among other things) in Europe”

A NZ-UK trade agreement will be another – albeit small – step in the re-ordering of global trade

There is increasing chatter in London that the NZ-UK trade deal will be announced in days, with invitations to briefings being diaried for Tuesday.

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).

Continue reading “A NZ-UK trade agreement will be another – albeit small – step in the re-ordering of global trade”

Has ‘Johnsonism’ arrived?

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. 

Continue reading “Has ‘Johnsonism’ arrived?”