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New President should spur NZ into action

Dr Lockwood Smith National MP

21 January 2001

New President should spur NZ into action

New Zealand must embrace the fact that President Bush has a much better chance of advancing global free trade than his predecessor, National MP and former Trade Minister Dr Lockwood Smith said today.

"While Bill Clinton was a strong and colourful advocate of free trade, he was limited in the progress he could make because Congress refused to negotiate authority. President Bush is more likely to succeed in this area and that's an exciting aspect of this new administration.

"Powers like Japan and the European Union will now take the United States' free trade stance more seriously simply because the rhetoric is more likely to be delivered."

Dr Smith believes while the prospects of global trade liberalisation will likely improve, New Zealand's position is increasingly vulnerable.

"The Labour-Alliance Government now needs to approach the trade work with real urgency. It should either push to re-activate the concept of P5 - a regional trade deal between the US, Singapore, Australia, Chile and New Zealand - or pursue a bi-lateral agreement with the US.

"It's urgent because both Singapore and Chile are working on bi-lateral agreements with the US right now, and Australia is planning to initiate discussions with the new administration.

"If each of the countries in P5 works on a bi-lateral deal New Zealand will inevitably be down the pecking order, particularly as Singapore and Chile have already started work and Australia is a solid defence ally.

"Jim Sutton and Helen Clark will need to advance our position with skill they have not displayed so far," Dr Smith said.

Ends

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