Why keeping tabs on Tata suggests O’Connor should be quickening the pace in push for an FTA with India

Among the many issues related to the performance of the export sector and how the Government might further help it is the case for negotiating a  trade deal with India.

Australia has secured a free trade deal with  what  is  the  planet’s  fifth-biggest economy.

In contrast, Agriculture and Trade Minister Damien O’Connor says concluding a free trade agreement between NZ and India “is not a realistic short-term prospect”.

Intensive negotiations were held between India and NZ in the context of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership FTA negotiations, especially in 2018 and 2019, before India withdrew from the RCEP negotiations in November 2019.

“RCEP contains provisions enabling expedited accession by India should it wish to re-join RCEP at some point in the future, says O’Connor.  

In the meantime NZ and India continued to work together to strengthen their broader bilateral relationship, he says.

But why  should  NZ be  missing  out on getting something like Australia’s deal? Continue reading “Why keeping tabs on Tata suggests O’Connor should be quickening the pace in push for an FTA with India”

Dishing out awards to volunteers should have been a calming chore for Minister in charge of highly stressed health system

Buzz from the Beehive

We introduced our Buzz report yesterday by observing that while Health Minister Andrew Little was announcing the launch of a meth addiction service in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, two of his colleagues were dealing with global issues.

We introduce today’s Buzz with much the same sentence.  While Andrew Little was at an awards ceremony to celebrate winners of this year’s Minister of Health Volunteer Awards, two of his colleagues were dealing with global issues  – the PM announced plans to travel to Europe and Australia “for a range of trade, tourism and foreign policy events”; Trade Minister Damien O’Connor will travel to Europe, Canada and Australia “to advance New Zealand’s economic interests”.

The PM’s travel plans most notably include her attendance of a session of the NATO Summit along with leaders from Australia, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

The awards ceremony in Parliament’s Grand Hall would have provided Little with an hour or so of relief from a slew of challenges within his portfolio and a daily flow of adverse news media reports – Continue reading “Dishing out awards to volunteers should have been a calming chore for Minister in charge of highly stressed health system”

Another challenge for Damien O’Connor: NZ has fallen behind Aussies and the Brits in striking free trade deals with India

As  India  fulfils  its  long-held   dream of  becoming  an  economic  super-power, New Zealand  is  again  being  left  on  the  sidelines.  First Australia  and  now  the  UK  have  beaten  it  to the punch  in  securing  free  trade  deals with India, a country  in Asia with  which  New Zealanders  have  always   felt  an  affinity — and  not  just  in  cricket

As The Economist  reported   earlier  this  month,  a  vast national  market  is  being created there and  empires  are  being built  on  new  technologies.

India  is  forecast  to be  the  world’s  fastest -growing  economy in 2022. For  India  to grow at 7%  or 8% for  years  to  come  would be  “momentous”.

The Economist  cited  four  pillars that  will  support  growth in the  next  decade:  the  forging  of  a  single  national  market, an expansion  of  industry  owing to  the   renewable  energy  shift and  a  move  in  supply  chains away  from China, continued  pre-eminence  in  IT, and  a  high-tech  safety net for  the  hundreds  of  millions  left  behind  by  all  this. Continue reading “Another challenge for Damien O’Connor: NZ has fallen behind Aussies and the Brits in striking free trade deals with India”

Govt is chuffed with NZ-UK free trade agreement but Jane Kelsey has spotted some shortcomings (including the Maori chapter)

It’s  “historic”    and  “one  of  our  best  deals  ever”.  So  enthuses  the PM,  Jacinda Ardern, about  the  new free  trade  deal  with  the  United Kingdom.

She and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke yesterday evening to mark this historic moment and its importance in forging a stronger and more dynamic future relationship between two close friends and partners, Ardern said.

“This deal serves New Zealand’s economy and exporters well as we reconnect, rebuild and recover from COVID-19, and look forward into the future.”

And:

“It’s one of our best deals ever and secured at a crucial time in our COVID recovery.” 

NZ is the second country to secure a new free trade agreement with the United Kingdom post Brexit.  Continue reading “Govt is chuffed with NZ-UK free trade agreement but Jane Kelsey has spotted some shortcomings (including the Maori chapter)”

The trade news is good, the climate-warming news is grim – and a bellbird is enlisted in rhetoric to pacify a tyrant

Developments overseas account for much of the latest ministerial announcements and speeches posted on The Beehive website.

The good news (at first blush) is that New Zealand and the United Kingdom have signed a Free Trade Agreement.  The two governments are aiming for this to enter into force by the end of the year, after both partners have ratified it through their respective parliaments.

The bad news – grim would be a better word – is that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report is a stark reminder of why New Zealand should brace for the worst effects of climate change.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta meanwhile has posted New Zealand’s Statement to the UN Human Rights Council which condemns Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.  And again,  Vladimir Putin has not been named, as if denying him the oxygen of publicity might change things.

Back on the home front, the Government has announced it is removing the self-isolation requirements for vaccinated travellers to New Zealand and enabling Kiwis to come here from the rest of the world sooner.

It also is stepping in to support local communities build up tourism facilities through a new funding round with a special focus on Matariki commemorations. The sum of  $16.5 million was allocated for this funding round in the $200 million Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Reset Plan last year.

And the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine will soon be available to people aged 18 and over, following Cabinet’s confirmation yesterday. Continue reading “The trade news is good, the climate-warming news is grim – and a bellbird is enlisted in rhetoric to pacify a tyrant”

Trade developments: PM heads for USA to push high-tech exports while O’Connor announces starting date for revised China FTA

New Zealand does not have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States, visitors to the Official Website of the US International Trade Administration are advised.

They are further advised of New Zealand’s aims to have FTA arrangements to cover 90 per cent of NZ goods exports by 2030.

But while the PM announced yesterday she will undertake a trade-focused visit to the United States in May, the pursuit of a free trade agreement with the US wasn’t mentioned in her press statement.  She talked, rather, of New Zealand’s high-technology export sectors.

This was followed by COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announcing new traveller requirements which he described as another milestone towards the reopening of our international border.

And then came news from Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor that  the Upgrade to New Zealand’s Free Trade Agreement with China will take effect on 7 April.

The only other announcement on the Beehive website, since Point of Order reported yesterday on what Jacinda Ardern and her ministers are doing, came from Environment Minister David Parker. Continue reading “Trade developments: PM heads for USA to push high-tech exports while O’Connor announces starting date for revised China FTA”

Our trade minister is hard at work in the quest for more FTAs – but several factors are frustrating his efforts

The government’s trade policy is running into quicksand. Reports from London and European capitals indicate there is little chance of immediate progress with free trade agreement negotiations with the UK or the European Union.

Don’t blame trade minister Damien O’Connor, a genial fellow who has generated much enthusiastic support from embassies around the world for his willingness to travel and engage with his counterparts.  Likewise, with MFAT trade supremo Vangelis Vitalis, highly regarded around the world for his trade craft.

On the other hand, there is a growing mood of desperation in the business world and other sectors at the reluctance of ministers, from the PM downwards, to travel offshore.  The PM delivered her annual address to the UN General Assembly by video.

Observers say whatever message she conveyed was simply lost in the electronic blizzard. Nothing replaces a personal appearance.

Prospects are firming for the first overseas trip by the minister of foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, principally to Doha where she will lead a troupe of singers and dancers to perform at the New Zealand pavilion of the delayed world trade expo. All have been guaranteed MIQ spots on return home as they are “representing New Zealand”.

Put the lack of movement on the trade-policy front down to several factors.

First, the state of politics in both the UK and the EU. Capitals have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and economies are only now beginning to recover.

There is alarm in the EU at the return of inflation. Prices, led by gas and electricity, are surging.  While France is likely to support an FTA with NZ, other support can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

London is looking to import turkeys from Poland and France for the Christmas trade because UK farmers had to curb production because of labour shortages. The Johnson government has been forced to reverse its policy of limiting 5,500 emergency work visas for the poultry industry to the turkey sector.

Visas will be available to any poultry workers after poultry producers, which previously relied on labour from eastern Europe, warned of threats to Christmas and potential overcrowding on chicken farms because of a lack of workers.

Britain is facing a series of crises ahead of Christmas. A shortage of heavy-vehicle drivers has led to the army delivering petrol.

Gas is short because of low stockpiles and a summer of lighter than forecast winds reduced wind-generated power supplies. Across the EU energy supplies are reaching crisis point as Russia appears reluctant to provide more than contracted gas supplies.

Second, the UK and EU have no appetite for new trade pacts, fearing a political backlash from electorates wearied by Covid.  As we have already noted, the UK-NZ FTA was driven in London by Liz Truss, now the UK foreign secretary.  Now there is a different mood in the British capital where the Johnson government has been badly bruised by farmer reaction, especially in traditional Conservative-voting electorates, to the UK-Australian FTA.

In recent decades, NZ prime ministers have always declared, amidst crises and dramas, that “this is not a good time to be in government”. Trade minister O’Connor may well say the same.

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”

The omens look good for exporters wanting a better deal from FTA with the UK – but not so good for endangered albatross

Trade Minister Damien O’Connor kicked off our day with the cheering news that New Zealand and the UK have committed to accelerating their free trade agreement negotiations with the aim of reaching an agreement in principle this August.

This compensated for the news that the first day’s play on the scheduled first day of the cricket test between the Black Caps and India had been abandoned.

“We’ve held constructive and productive discussions towards the conclusion of a high-quality and comprehensive FTA that will support sustainable and inclusive trade, and help drive New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID,” Damien O’Connor said.

He will leave the UK on Monday morning for Brussels where he will meet with his trade counterpart to advance NZ’s FTA negotiations with the European Union.

His good news landed in our in tray on World Albatross Day but the news from the Beehive for the endangered Antipodean albatross was ominous. 

Their numbers are declining at an alarming rate.

Albatrosses feed on fish near the surface, making them vulnerable to being caught on fishing lines or in nets.

Acting Conversation Minister Ayesha Verrall said the government has a plan aiming to reduce domestic bycatch to zero and is funding a wider roll-out of cameras on inshore fishing vessels. Continue reading “The omens look good for exporters wanting a better deal from FTA with the UK – but not so good for endangered albatross”