Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

PM's Europe trip highlights delicate nature of trade agreeme

There was a time when New Zealand prime ministers made an annual pilgrimage to Europe, cap in hand, imploring incumbents of gilded palaces not to cut New Zealand's UK butter quota. Times have now changed - New Zealand is still talking trade but, judging by the enthusiasm of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, we seem to be pushing on an open door.

This willingness of both New Zealand and Europe to embrace each other is not new. We have been talking for a decade about a free trade agreement and have been steadily upgrading our relationship with the European Union (EU). Former prime ministers have made successful visits to European capitals. Chancellor Merkel visited New Zealand in 2014.

For some time there has been a sense among European Ambassadors in Wellington that New Zealand's long-standing relationship with Europe was being forgotten in the rush to engage with Asia. Perhaps our (equally long-standing) effort to diversify and focus closer to home became too successful. In fact, Europe has continued to matter a lot to New Zealand - in trade, investment and people to people linkages. Differences over issues like agricultural protection subsidies have at times tended to obscure a vibrant commercial relationship; we are like-minded on many issues.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's visit provides an opportunity to engage with an important partner early in the term of her new government. She went to Paris with a strong commitment to tackling climate change and to adopting a more "progressive and inclusive" approach to trade. This resonated well with President Macron. In Berlin there was similar alignment on a range of global issues, stressing the importance of dialogue and diplomacy.

Why should the EU be interested at all in a free trade agreement (FTA) with New Zealand? At first blush there would seem to be more in it for New Zealand than Europe. It seems unlikely that European farmers will welcome more competition from New Zealand dairy and meat products. This is not new for us of course. Typically, the New Zealand approach is to find a "big idea" to overcome inevitable mercantilist reflexes.

One big idea is that an FTA with New Zealand offers a chance to fashion an agreement for the times, addressing a generation of issues (digital, environment, climate change) and appeals to those who have been marginalised in past processes (women, small business, indigenous).

Another idea is directly related to the success New Zealand had in opening markets in the Asia-Pacific. A well-constructed FTA can offer value to European business by encouraging investment in New Zealand, which, linked with our productive strengths, can develop new business ventures in Asia. Herein lies a problem. The government will have to find ways to encourage European investment at a time when it seems less willing than its predecessor to open the gates.

Politicians generally like to claim trade agreements will be straightforward to negotiate but experience tells us otherwise. They are complex and the New Zealand-European Union agreement will not be any different. Top marks to the Prime Minister for seizing the moment and moving on the agenda with Europe. It is long overdue.

*Stephen Jacobi is the executive director of the New Zealand China Council and the New Zealand International Business Forum. He is also managing director of Jacobi Consulting Ltd. He is a former diplomat.


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On Racism And The Windsors

For all the talk about the modernizing effect that Meghan Markle could have on the Royal Family, the suspicion all along has been that the House of Windsor is resistant to change at any level beyond the purely decorative. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Prospects Of US Talks With North Korea

On June 12, the leaders of North Korea and the United States will meet across a table in Singapore, and Kim Jong Un must already be feeling giddy at the thought that this meeting is already being described with the word “summit” formerly reserved for meetings between superpowers of equal stature... Image: Steve Bolton NZ's contribution to the IAEA’s work on North Korea

  • United Nations - UN chief ‘optimistic’ over peace efforts
  • David Swanson - Enough is Enough. The Time Has Come to BDS the US - Peace Comes to Korea: Let’s Understand Why
  • CTBTO - CTBTO on North Korea
  • NZ Govt - NZ welcomes talks between North and South Korea
  • Massey University - Nukes to cyber war – NZ security in focus
  • Jim Miles - The Doomsday Machine - Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner
  • UNHCHR - North Korea detente: UN expert urges human rights opening
  • Binoy Kampmark - Trump, North Korea and Post-Olympic Angst
  • Gordon Campbell: On National’s Latest Attempts At Relevance

    Having ignored the existence of massive problems in health and education for nine years in government, it is no longer politically viable for National to maintain the pretence that such problems really don’t exist, or are somehow unworthy of serious concern by rational men of commerce.... More>>

    Gordon Campbell: On The Need For Immediate Action On WINZ

    So the old saying goes, the main difference between the centre-right and centre-left is that both believe in market solutions, but the centre-left spends a lot more time worrying about the effects, afterwards. More>>

    Gordon Campbell: On Petrol Pricing And The Midwives March

    The public brawl between Energy Minister Megan Woods and BP looks like spinning off – as brawls tend to do – into a whole array of extraneous matters. Evidently, some people find it hard to see the difference between taxes and profits. More>>