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Helen Clark Should Clarify Labour’s Import Tariff

Labour’s trade spokesperson Helen Clark should clarify Labour’s trade policy, according to Trade Minister Lockwood Smith.

“We’re now just three weeks away from the Third World Trade Organisation Ministerial in Seattle which is expected to launch a new round of trade negotiations, and the Labour Party is yet to provide a clear line on its trade policy”, Dr Smith said.

“In particular, Labour has fudged its approach on tariffs, and is way out of touch on international thinking on export credits.
“On import tariffs, we’ve got Michael Cullen saying that Labour would freeze import tariffs at current levels, and yesterday, Jim Sutton appeared to support the policy in a statement criticising National’s ‘unilateral and abrupt reductions in tariffs’.

“But on 2 November, Jim Sutton is reported in The Press as saying that ‘I can’t see us [Labour] getting into artificially restricting imports again. That is so distortionary and inflationary … it drove up cost structures right through the economy.’

“Mr Sutton is right – using import tariffs to artificially restrict imports is distortionary, and it does raise costs for businesses and families, right throughout the economy.

“But his statements are not consistent with Labour’s policies and his own recent statements on tariff policy, and although Labour are promising to freeze import tariffs, they haven’t said what this actually means. In particularly, they have not taken a position on the Tariff (Zero Duty) Amendment Act, which would need repealing if they were to fulfil Dr Cullen’s commitments on tariffs.
“The Labour Party can’t have it both ways with different audiences.

“As Labour’s current trade spokesperson, Helen Clark owes New Zealand businesses and families a clear statement of Labour’s policy on import tariffs policy, especially given its relevance to the next round of World Trade Organisation negotiations” Dr Smith concluded.

ENDS

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