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Forget free-trade deal while Clark is PM

National's Foreign Affairs spokesman says the comments made by US trade representative Bob Zoellick have clearly dashed any hope of New Zealand getting a free-trade deal with the US while Helen Clark is Prime Minister.

"The Prime Minister's disastrous diplomatic forays over the last two months have cost this country dearly," says National's Wayne Mapp. "Both Canberra and Washington must be wondering what is going on with Helen Clark."

Referring to reports today that Bob Zoellick is offering little cause for optimism of a free-trade deal, Dr Mapp says the Prime Minister's clumsy anti-war rhetoric and criticism of our traditional friends and allies have left us out in the cold.

"The legendary iron discipline about proper conduct has given way latent anti-Americanism.

"It is not surprising that Pentagon advisor Andrew Scobell has talked of US defence officials regarding the New Zealand Government with disdain.

"Helen Clark's criticism of the United States has lost us any opportunity of having personal dialogue with US leaders. Instead she's had to revert to suggesting New Zealand's national interests might be best served by a Franco/German/Russia linkup with good links through to the Chinese.

"So where does that leave the hopes of a US free-trade deal worth an estimated $1 billion a year?

"Australia is now fast-tracking towards a free-trade agreement. New Zealand is not. It is not surprising that Alexander Downer can make jokes at New Zealand's expense," says Dr Mapp.

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