Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


PM censures Trade Minister for 'head of a pin' answers

Monday 25 July 2016 05:13 PM

PM censures Trade Minister for 'head of a pin' answers on China trade threat

By Pattrick Smellie

July 25 (BusinessDesk) - Prime Minister John Key has censured his newbie Trade Minister, Todd McClay, for "dancing on the head of a pin" in answers he gave to both Key and news media when first asked about alleged trade threats from China over steel imports.

Speaking after launching a new government initiative aiming to make New Zealand 'predator-free' by 2050, Key told reporters he had not requested or been offered McClay's resignation, although McClay had apologised to him for his handling of the issue, which blew up while Key and McClay were travelling in Indonesia.

McClay initially claimed, in comments that Key also relied on for his own statements, that contact between a Chinese non-government agency and kiwifruit exporter Zespri International was the full extent of activity relating to the alleged potential for retaliation by China against key New Zealand agricultural exports if Chinese steel was ruled to have been dumped in the New Zealand market.

In fact, dairy exporter Fonterra Cooperative Group had heard the rumours and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had undertaken its own investigation into the rumours, receiving official assurances from Chinese authorities that no such retaliation would occur.

"Certainly when the issue was raised and I was in Jakarta, the briefing I had was that the only discussions had been a non-government agency and Zespri and that's not correct and he (McClay) should have made both the media and myself aware of that," said Key of an issue that has now been running for more than a week. "I think he took a very literal interpretation of the question that was asked of him.

"While he may have been technically correct, that's giving a very specific and I think 'dancing on the head of a pin' type of answer to what was really a broader question."

He had left "the wrong impression" that the only contacts had been between Zespri and an unofficial source.

Key had met McClay this morning to tell him he had been "under the very clear illusion when I answered questions that there had been discussions between the commercial sector and the industry body and the company. What he's now telling me is 'yes, there have been discussions with a number of parties, some very limited correspondence', and that doesn't quite fit with what I understood at the press stand-up in Jakarta," Key said.

"So it's not really a controversial matter for the Minister in so much of his engagement, it's simply a matter of whether that's a genuine threat or not and he needs to be able to answer that and I'm not sure that we did that in quite as fulsome a way as we still would be able to do while still preserving WTO rules."

Labour leader Andrew Little issued a statement calling for McClay's resignation, saying he was "clearly out of his depth."

Earlier this afternoon, McClay released a statement apologising formally to Key for the fact that there had been discussions on the steel issue for some months.

"I want to make it clear today that there have been discussions and limited correspondence over the past few months as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has endeavoured to assess the veracity of these reports," he said. "I should have requested a more thorough briefing before I responded to questions on this issue.

“I have apologised to the Prime Minister for not being able to provide more details at the time."

The issue of whether Chinese steel is being sold below the cost of production on global markets is a highly sensitive one at present for Beijing, which is fighting American, European and other major steel producers on the issue.


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Stats NZ: Largest Drop In Terms Of Trade In A Decade As Dairy Export Prices Sour

Lower export prices for dairy, meat, and logs in the September 2020 quarter led to the biggest drop in terms of trade since June 2009, Stats NZ said today. Export prices fell in the September 2020 quarter, down 8.3 percent from its highest ever ... More>>


Stats NZ: Election Boosts October Job Numbers

Job numbers were boosted by general election staff in October 2020, along with rises in the manufacturing, retail, and hospitality industries, Stats NZ said today. Filled jobs rose by 27,667 to 2.2 million in October 2020 compared with September, after ... More>>

Government: New Year Border Exception For Seasonal Workers In The Horticulture And Wine Industries

2000 additional RSE workers to enter New Zealand early next year employers must pay these workers at least $22.10 an hour employers will cover costs of managed isolation for the RSE workers RSE workers will be paid the equivalent of 30 hours work a week ... More>>


Media: Discovery, Inc. Completes Acquisition Of New Zealand’s Mediaworks TV Ltd

Auckland, New Zealand, December 1, 2020 - Discovery, Inc. (“Discovery”), the global leader in real-life entertainment, has completed its acquisition of New Zealand’s leading independent free-to-air commercial broadcaster, MediaWorks TV Ltd, now operating ... More>>

Department Of Conservation: Big Year Underway At Albatross Colony

Familiar faces are returning for the new season of Royal Cam, with a big breeding year underway for the toroa/northern royal albatross colony on Otago’s windswept Pukekura/Taiaroa Head. More than 120 albatrosses, a taonga species, have returned ... More>>

Real Estate: ASB Survey Reveals Majority Of Kiwis Expect House Prices To Keep Climbing


House price expectations are soaring as New Zealand’s housing market shifts up a gear. But stretched affordability is putting a dent in perceptions of whether it’s a good time to buy. While Kiwis reveal they do expect interest rates to fall further. ... More>>

Stats NZ: Births And Deaths: Year Ended September 2020

Births and deaths releases provide statistics on the number of births and deaths registered in New Zealand, and selected fertility and mortality rates. Key facts For the year ended September 2020: 57,753 live births and 32,670 deaths ... More>>