US Trade and FailureThursday, May 22, 2003
Today NZ's international trade chickens came home to roost. In spite of the protestations and pious hopes expressed by the Trade Negotiations Minister, he appears to be acknowledging that his task of establishing better trading relationships with the US will have to be re-started again from the beginning.
Claimed highly principled policies which a series of NZ governments have implemented over the past 20 years have finally drawn the sharp US rebuke that had previously been so carefully avoided. It appears that our significant trading partner has finally acted on its belief that the NZ Government is confused, irrational and altogether too difficult to deal with.
Our anti nuclear and anti war policies and our leaders recent self indulgent political criticisms have finally drawn a sharp US reaction. A reaction that will be seen as little more than an "I told you they would" by a NZ government that has been blinded by its recent economic good fortune. In harsher economic times it would have been clear that the reality imposed by the marketplace would have modified the flow of inappropriate rhetoric and arrogant position taking in the interests of improving trade..
But the real misfortune is the loss of better US trading opportunities that were becoming visible as the US moved to free up trade with its close allies. These losses will show up in future balance sheets of farmer producers because some of he best paying international markets for the pastoral products NZ produces are in the US.
Is this sorry state in our US trading relationship not a further reminder of the remoteness of the urban electorate to the needs of NZ pastoral industries? The "I'm alright Jack" fingers shown by the urban liberal suffragettes are certainly dismissive of the consequences to this countries future economic welfare.
Mr Sutton may now be left with his single remaining option to redirect all his efforts into progressing WTO agreements. But because of the complexity and implacable opposition to elements of the stalled proposals of the Doha Round the yield from that effort will inevitably be too little too late.
Meantime or Aussie cousins will have happily bagged the early benefits from their improved US association which will further exacerbate NZ's declining economic condition.
What a squandered potential.