LABOUR’S RURAL TRADE POLICY AT ODDS WITH SHONKY RECORD

  • Dr Lockwood Smith
International Trade

The Labour Party's policy for rural exporters takes huge liberties with the truth and ignores its shonky record for destroying relationships with key trading partners, according to Trade Minister Lockwood Smith.

"Labour's rural policy says that the results of the Uruguay Round for New Zealand have been ‘disappointing', but the facts say otherwise," Dr Smith said.

"The Uruguay Round delivered specific improvements in market access for New Zealand's rural exporters, including 25,000 tonnes of butter to Europe (worth around NZ$50 million every year), 20,000 tonnes of sheepmeat to Europe (NZ$80 million) and 30,000 tonnes of beef to the US (worth around NZ$125 million).

"In total, the benefits of the Uruguay Round to New Zealand's rural exporters are expected to amount to a total of $1.6 billion by 2000 - that's hardly disappointing.

"The policy also claims that the so-called ‘disappointing' results from Uruguay are ‘to a significant extent ... the fault of the National Government', and that Labour is determined to do better by ‘more effective representation', and ‘friendly relations with our trading partners'.

"Over the past nine years, the National-led Government has worked quietly to build strong relationships with key trading partners, and in 1999, those relationships are paying dividends for our rural exporters.
"Last year, we secured access for apple exports to India and cherries to Korea. This year, we've obtained access for salmon into Australia. Improved access for Kiwi-fruit in the United States' market. Major trading partners have significantly reduced their average tariffs because of APEC and its work.
"We've also secured a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Singapore. We're investigating FTAs with Chile and Korea. US President Bill Clinton is considering a state of the art FTA with New Zealand and other economies. And we're looking at the possibility of bringing CER and the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) together to create an Asia-Pacific wide free trade area.

"National's record on building sound relationships that deliver improved market access has delivered results, and is in stark contrast to Labour's record, both in Government and opposition.

"Prior to APEC this year, Labour's agriculture spokesman Jim Sutton said that President Clinton shouldn't come to New Zealand. Helen Clark said that APEC had ‘run out of steam', but once again, the facts say otherwise. And when Labour was last in Government, it left New Zealand's relationship with the world's largest market, the United States, in tatters.

"Labour's analysis of trade policy takes huge liberties with the truth, and on the basis of its past record, I have no confidence that the Labour Party could deliver on its commitment to improve market access for rural exporters," Dr Smith concluded.