The government’s ability to negotiate the best trade deals in the interests of all New Zealanders will be strengthened by a significant funding boost for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker has said.
“This is an investment in the jobs and businesses that rely on exports. Facing threats of increasing barriers, New Zealand needs to fight harder than ever for open and free trade,” he said.
Economists at MFAT estimate more than 620,000 workers, one in four, derive their livelihoods from exports.
“Those exports ensure we can earn the income that allows us to import the medicines, cell phones and vehicles that we do not make at home,” Parker said.
But a rise, he said, in protectionist sentiment around the world and recent talk of trade wars make it more important than ever that New Zealand’s independent voice is heard and its diplomatic and negotiating presence is enhanced.
“It will also mean more resources to help us uphold existing rules in the WTO and work directly with our free trade partners.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has announced an operating expenditure increase of $150.4 million over the next four years, and an additional $40.3m in capital expenditure. That will allow for an additional 50 foreign policy positions and the reopening of an embassy in Stockholm, Sweden.
The government has an extensive negotiating agenda which requires more resources to deliver the best results for New Zealanders.
That includes the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, involving 16 countries with a total GDP of US $23 trillion, the Pacific Alliance trade bloc of Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia and making the case for a deal with the Mercosur free trade grouping of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
It is also hoped negotiations will start soon with the EU, which is our top trade priority.
At the same time the government will be implementing – and possibly expanding – the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“The Government has launched its progressive Trade for All agenda that recognises trade must benefit all, including small businesses, women and indigenous groups.
“Having an adequately-resourced ministry at home and internationally will contribute to the well-being of all New Zealanders,” Parker said.
But opposition leader Simon Bridges said New Zealanders have learned the true cost of Winston Peters making Jacinda Ardern Prime Minister, with the Government writing Peters a billion dollar cheque at the same time as claiming it doesn’t have enough money to meet its excessive promises.
The Ardern-Peters Government has its priorities badly wrong, he said.
“Just weeks after the Prime Minister broke her promise of universal cheap GP visits claiming the Government didn’t have enough money, she’s written Winston a massive cheque to invest offshore and to open new embassies and hire more diplomats.
“What matters more to New Zealanders – more diplomats or more doctors?
“What’s more it proves that their claims of under-funding crises in health and education are just ludicrous.
So far the Government has claimed it doesn’t have more money for child poverty, said Bridges, and claimed its going to take years to make up for years of underfunding in social services.
“New Zealand has always played an important role internationally, and a leading role in the Pacific, and we must continue to do so.
“But the needs of New Zealanders must always be put first. Unfortunately this policy is about the needs of Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters over the rest.”