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Middle Road Is The Best Place To Get Run Over

17 June 1999

Trade Minister Lockwood Smith is surprised by comments from Chief Executive of the Auckland Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry Michael Barnett that the threat of trade restrictions against the New Zealand lamb industry warrants Government revisiting its current policy, and establishing a "more middle road position".

"The threat of US trade restrictions is very real, and I'm continuing to work with Meat New Zealand, other meat industry representatives, Federated Farmers and through our Embassy in Washington to fight the introduction of harmful restrictions," said Dr Smith.

"Our farmers are faced with the threat of trade restrictions because of their high level of competitiveness, which is directly related to the policy approach which Mr Barnett would like us to revisit.

"The alternative to open markets is the introduction of trade barriers. As New Zealand farmers are well aware, protectionism abroad means less return for our producers. But trade barriers also impose costs on those who seek protection through inflating the price of imports and domestic products, limiting consumer choice and placing the heaviest burden on those in society that are less well off.

"Mr Barnett can be assured that this Government's approach of removing barriers to trade is not an abstract end unto itself, or a handicap to the prospects of increasing the prosperity and standard of living of New Zealand families.

"OECD research shows that in the past decade, countries with open markets have achieved double the annual average growth of others.

"If the United States wants to keep its sheep meat industry uncompetitive, have its consumers pay more to enjoy New Zealand lamb, impose costs on New Zealand and Australian farmers and risk an action in the World Trade Organisation, then it will proceed to introduce trade restrictions against lamb imports.

"But there can be no mistake. Trade barriers mean that everyone loses and, as shown by the difficulties of the US Administration in arriving at a decision on lamb imports, a "middle road" policy is the best place to get run over," Dr Smith concluded.


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