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Give Trade a Chance Restart Russia Agreement

Rt Hon Winston Peters
New Zealand First Leader
Member of Parliament for Northland

13 OCTOBER 2015


New Zealand should restart negotiations on the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Free Trade Agreement based around true free trade, says New Zealand First.

“With the risk of a new Cold War, are we benefitting politically or economically from our lack of meaningful engagement with Russia?” asks New Zealand FirstLeader and Member of Parliament for Northland Rt Hon Winston Peters.

Major exporters such as Fonterra have been discouraged by the government from stepping in to fill the gap left by countries with trade sanctions on Russia.

“The government has just signed up to the TPPA on the basis that ‘something is better than nothing’. It ill behoves New Zealand to of late spend so much time kow-towing to Uncle Sam whilst our other trading interests are so seriously neglected.

“Russia is the world’s fifth largest food importer, which, before the sanctions, imported over $50 billion worth of food. It is also the world’s number two dairy importer, so it is madness for Mr Key not to use trade as a positive diplomatic tool.

“Disappointingly, in the month following Mr Groser blaming Russian slowness for lifting restrictions on Fonterra processing plants, we know that not one letter, email, note or fax, was exchanged between him and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

“This lackadaisical approach forgets that the stellar run of New Zealand beef exports into the United States could slow after 2016, as the American beef herd rebuilds. Russia has strong potential to be a growth opportunity if we’re prepared to take it.

“No less than the US Department of Agriculture's Moscow bureau forecasts that Russian beef imports will rise as its domestic beef industry falls 40 per cent short of demand.

“The forecast is that in 2016, Russian beef imports will increase 5 per cent to 735,000 tonnes. That’s a prize worth striving for given New Zealand is currently lumped in with ‘other countries’ for a total frozen beef quota of just 407,000 tonnes.

“Not actively trading with Russia hasn’t altered Russia’s foreign policy, so it really is a time to give trade a chance,” says Mr Peters.


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