• Lockwood Smith

"Nonsense", was Trade Minister Lockwood Smith's reaction to reviewing Jim Anderton's 'evidence' to support the allegation that New Zealand was being excluded from regional forums because of its commitment to free trade.

"In his initial statement, Mr Anderton said that New Zealand were being excluded because of its commitment to free trade. But in his response Mr Anderton moves the goal posts saying instead that New Zealand's commitment to trade liberalisation is 'hurting our international reputation'", Dr Smith said.

"But even with changed criteria, Mr Anderton has failed to provide proof to justify his claims.

"New Zealand is a very good friend of ASEAN, and we are certainly not treated with suspicion. The ASEAN web-site refers to the ASEAN-New Zealand dialogue, established in 1975, and describes it as 'one of the longest formal linkages between ASEAN and its dialogue partners'. The dialogue involves regular meetings for both sides to discuss the orientation and measures to consolidate and strengthen the ASEAN - New Zealand relationship. This is hardly an organisation that excludes New Zealand.

"Mr Anderton's reference to the WTO as further evidence of New Zealand's 'exclusion' from regional fora is even more nonsensical. The WTO is a multi-lateral organisation - not regional - and New Zealand enjoys a high profile as an active member of the organisation.

"New Zealand's reputation as a country with a strong commitment to trade liberalisation has been hugely beneficial to Mike Moore's campaign, rather than hindering it as Mr Anderton suggests.

"Mr Anderton's response confirms his inexperience in international trade, and even by his own standards, Mr Anderton has not provided evidence to demonstrate that New Zealand is being excluded from regional forums because of its commitment to free trade.

"Because I'm a generous man, I'm willing to give Mr Anderton another 24 hours to support his claims. But again, I'm not holding my breath," Dr Smith concluded.