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Alun Fosta: Hewers Of Wood And Drawers Of Water

Hewers Of Wood And Drawers Of Water

By Alun Fosta

You can usually bet that, when one politician, in this case Peter Dunne of United Future, has a go at another politician, in this case Winston Peters of New Zealand First, in order to gain points, or, more likely, votes at this time, he will just put forward the side of the argument that suits him. Politicians are very like reporters, make it sensational, never mind if it is totally biased.

Peters’ anti China tirade ignorant,” (Scoop 1 June 2005) trumpets Mr. Dunne, “Our trade with China is already worth $1.7 Billion, and an FTA could (Note: “could” not “will”) boost that by another $400 Million.” Well, whoopie doooo. What Mr. Dunne conveniently, and, no doubt deliberately, leaves out (for reasons presumably best known to himself) is that even without an FTA, New Zealand already imports twice as much as it exports to China. The paragraph below “2.2 Trends in two way goods trade” is taken directly from the website of the “Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade” (

2.2 Trends in two-way goods trade

Largely reflecting economic complementarities, the China-New Zealand commercial relationship has grown substantially over the last decade. From 1991 to 2002, the average annual increasing rate of bilateral merchandise trade was 12 percent. In 2003, Chinese statistics show the two-way trade between China and New Zealand reached US$1.83 billion, an increase of 30.7 percent over 2002, among which China's imports from New Zealand totalled US$1.02 billion, an increase of 27 percent over the previous year, and exports US$0.80 billion, an increase of 34.2 percent. According to New Zealand statistics, the two way trade in 2003 reached US$2,648 million, with New Zealand's exports to China comprising US$856 million and New Zealand's imports from China US$1,791 million. China is now New Zealand's fourth largest trading partner.

Maybe Mr. Dunne should go and take a look at it and put “the other side”.

You can bet that the FTA will be a lose-lose for New Zealand. New Zealand will, doubtless, continue to export vast amounts of “wood in the rough,” (see Table 2.4 below, also from “ to China while, at the same time, increasing its balance of payments deficit and going deeper in debt by borrowing money to import cheap photocopy paper from China.

Table 2.4: China's Top Ten Merchandise Imports From New Zealand US$000, 2000-2003 (Chinese Statistics)
Tariff No. Items 2000 2001 2002 2003
0402 Milk and cream 77,474 77,493 101,587 153,017
4403 Wood in the rough 28,193 383,229 100,493 125,212
5101 Wool 76,930 26,712 88,289 90,700
4407 Wood sawn or chipped 30,010 31,129 41,565 51,272
2905 Methanol 63,919 35,240 57,688 42,891
1502 Animal fat 27,460 15,955 17,728 31,552
4102 Sheep skins, raw 18,346 24,739 19,922 31,084
0204 Sheep meat 12,355 15,817 20,124 30,841
4411 Fibreboard of wood 19,900 20,687 28,945 27,654
4804 Paper and paperboard 15,457 28,787 27,693 26,529
Note: The items of merchandise are ranked according to the trade value of 2003.
Sources: China Customs Statistics Yearbook 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, compiled by Customs General Administration of China.

Out of curiosity, I called “Business New Zealand” to try to find out how many wooden furniture manufacturers there are in New Zealand, the guess was about 800. If there are so many, why does New Zealand have to borrow money to import furniture from overseas when there is all this wood available? Why, since there are paper mills here, does New Zealand export “wood in the rough’ to China and then borrow money overseas to import paper from China? I have my own thoughts on that, but you go figure. CUI BONO.

Alun Fosta is a New Zealand writer, committed “Government of the Bankers, by the Bankers, for the Bankers conspiracy theorist and avowed antiestablishmentarian. Comments can be sent to

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