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The Politics Of Trade


The power of lobby groups is revealed in the statement announcing President Clinton's imposition of import relief and domestic assistance for the U.S. lamb industry.

The statement itself is in the business wire and talks about a number of points which both Australia and New Zealand say are in dispute. First is the assertion that "the domestic lamb industry is threatened with serious injury due to a surge in lamb imports" - a point NZ farmers say is not true and the troubles in the US industry are self inflicted.

President Clinton also says that the moves show "commitment to the vigorous and full enforcement of our trade laws…. … while respecting our international trade obligations." A point which many in New Zealand and Australia will be taken to the World Trade Organisation.

The move comes after months of waiting and the 'spin' from the White House is that the reason for the delay was due to the President rejecting a harsher package. In the end the language of the White House is clearly aimed at a domestic audience, it is the international implications that will anger many.


While that may be true, the decision will bring new political focus to New Zealand's position on trade and the oft quoted statement that "we stand naked' while the rest of the world mouths support of free trade while keeping firmly wrapped up.

For some previous coverage. See:


Last month:

US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky has told the US House Agriculture Committee
that the decision was long overdue on imposing restrictions on Australian and New
Zealand lamb imports.

Scoop: Barshefsky Says Lamb Decision Soon http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL9906/S00058.htm

While the waiting went on, the Government tried to set the scene while lobbying went on:

Food and Fibre Minister John Luxton said today that farmers are understandably nervous
as they wait for US President Bill Clinton's decision on access for New Zealand lamb.

Scoop: Silence On The Lambs http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA9906/S00094.htm

Agriculture continues to be a major export earner for New Zealand and the Government
is working with the industry to maximise its profitability, Prime Minister Jenny
Shipley said today.

Scoop: Government Working To Protect Lamb Access http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA9906/S00074.htm

The Alliance said US hypocrisy over New Zealand lamb imports highlights the flaw
in New Zealand's reliance on free trade.

Scoop: US lamb decision mocks NZ's tariff removal http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA9906/S00092.htm

While Labour criticised the Government's lack of action while applauding Australian Prime Minister John Howard's initiative in ringing President Clinton to make strong representations on behalf of his country's lamb exporters.

Scoop: Will Jenny phone Bill now? http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA9906/S00005.htm

The Government said that trade was is no place for the Labour Party's petty politics.

Scoop: No Place For Party Politics On Lamb http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA9906/S00095.htm

But the debate will go on, while farmers face an estimated $19 million cost this year.

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