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Govt mulls adding trade staff in key markets

Government ministers mull beefing up trade specialists in key markets

Aug. 26 (BusinessDesk) - Government ministers are discussing measures to beef up the number of trade specialists in key export markets as they work out how to prevent a repeat of the recent food scares that have locked out some local dairy products from major economies.

Trade Minister Tim Groser, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Foreign Minister Murray McCully have been discussing options to get more bodies on the ground in key trading partner countries as the nation continues to deal with fall-out from Fonterra Cooperative Group’s food scare, Prime Minister John Key told reporters at his weekly post-Cabinet press conference in Wellington.

“There’s some debate among ministers about whether we need to have a bigger footprint offshore in some of those critical markets,” Key said. “This is about how many specialist trade personnel in the market they might have in locations, and whether that footprint is right.”

The steps come as Fonterra’s woes have flowed on to other New Zealand dairy producers, whose products have been held up on Chinese wharves as port officials debate what additional testing is required to give food the all-clear.

Key said the Ministries of Business, Innovation and Employment, Foreign Affairs and Trade will work through the issue with the ministers, and that he “wouldn’t be surprised over time if they decide they want to build that capability.”

Fonterra last week had to shut its Sri Lankan offices in the face of nationalist protests, and Key today said he understands the dairy exporter is working on a plan to demonstrate its long-term commitment to the nation.

An earlier food scare related to contaminated whey protein concentrate has sparked four reviews, two by Fonterra, one by the Ministry for Primary Industries, and a Ministerial inquiry.


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