SUTTON DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM CULLEN ON TRADE POLICY

  • Dr Lockwood Smith
International Trade

Labour's Trade Spokesperson Jim Sutton has today distanced himself from his senior Finance Spokesperson Michael Cullen's recent undertakings on tariff policy, according to Trade Minister Lockwood Smith.

Opposition Trade Spokesperson Jim Sutton's indication that ‘Labour would do little to change the National Government's free trade policy' is in stark contrast to Michael Cullen's statement on tariffs.

On Wednesday, Dr Cullen said that Labour would "hold tariffs for five years, unless our trading partners start catching up with us, in which case we will resume a faster rate of tariff reductions".

"Mr Sutton must be feeling pretty isolated within his own caucus this morning, following from a terrible year of rifts between his positions and those of the Labour Party" Dr Smith said.

"On 13 July Jim Sutton claimed to have Labour Party support for his call for US President Bill Clinton to stay away from APEC , despite his leader Helen Clark already saying that "she did not agree with Mr Sutton" .

"In September Jim Sutton resigned as Forestry Spokesperson over disagreements with his party's U-turn on its forestry policy, and we've now got a further rift over Labour's approach to trade policy.
"The real question for our exporters, business-people and New Zealand families is, who we should look to for Labour's real position on trade policy? On the one hand we have Mr Sutton saying that there will be no change, whilst on the other hand Dr Cullen is saying that there will be a fundamental shift in policy.

"On past performance, you'd have to question Sutton's ability to persuade his caucus. The real pressure would come if a Labour-Alliance Government were elected, and Mr Cullen held true to his statement to freeze tariffs for five years.

"This would require repealing the Tariff (Zero Duty) Amendment Act, and Mr Anderton may then seek to introduce the Alliance policy which would impose an across the board tariff on all imports, except those from Australia.

"The Labour Party has already lost Jim Sutton's support for its stance on forestry, rejected his views on President Clinton's visit to New Zealand for APEC and now faces the risk of Mr Sutton's resignation over its approach to tariffs and trade," Dr Smith concluded.