Government 'pussy-footing around' on solving non-tariff barrier trade issue: Labour

Labour's trade spokesperson David Clark says the Government's approach is far too soft, on dealing with non-tariff ...
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Labour's trade spokesperson David Clark says the Government's approach is far too soft, on dealing with non-tariff barriers to trade.

A $6 billion hit to New Zealand exporters held up at international borders won't decrease while the minister "pussy-foots around" and fails to set targets, says Labour. 

The party's trade spokesman David Clark said the minister needed to light a fuse under the feet of his officials. 

His comments come in response to ones made by Trade Minister Todd McClay of the investigative work undertaken by the Government to cut the red tape that was unfairly slowing down trade outside of free trade agreements. 

Trade Minister Todd McClay has welcomed a report which shows the impact of non-tariff barriers on New Zealand's economy.
Robert Charles/FAIRFAX NZ

Trade Minister Todd McClay has welcomed a report which shows the impact of non-tariff barriers on New Zealand's economy.

It follows a recent report from the New Zealand Institute for Economic Research - commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade - which estimates $5.9 billion is lost each year, to non-tariff barriers (NTBs). 

The report was welcomed by McClay, who said addressing NTBs was core Government work. 

But Clark said a soft approach had seen no timelines or targets set, for what it expected to achieve.

 "I would like to see the minister wrap his head around what kind of opportunity there is realistically, how much he thinks we can claw back from the lost opportunity through tariff barriers.

"That will require real intellectual grunt and a focus from the minister on delivering for New Zealand export industries."

McClay said NTBs were a "pervasive, costly issue" for exporting businesses. 

"As the studies show, even as our growing network of trade agreements has reduced the costs for our exports, there has been a significant rise in the number of non-tariff barriers that exporters face," he said.

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A cross-party group was set up earlier in the year, to "get to grips" with the impact of NTBs and figure out what could be done to get rid of them. 

"New Zealand Trade and Enterprise is encouraging its export customers to come forward with market access issues they may be encountering," McClay said.

But in written response to private questions from Clark, McClay revealed the group met every four to six weeks, and there was no timeline in place to have the issue resolved by. 

"The Government's objective is to resolve NTBs as quickly as possible. In some cases that is weeks, in some cases months, and in some cases years," McClay said. 

Clark said the Government was not showing enough urgency over the matter. 

"When export in meat is affected, when export in horticulture is affected, when dairy is affected and other major industries, to the tune of $6b, we need real action and we need a timeline at the very least, as to how the Government's going to tackle this. 

"The fact that there's a 'high level ministerial group' offers very little comfort when it doesn't have deliverables, when it's only meeting  every 4-6 weeks roughly, and when it's only delivered four reports so far to the Minister," Clark said.  

"We know the renegotiation of the China FTA is in the wings, and that will be one of the critical factors in it. I would like the Government to light a fuse under the officials, to ensure that we address this most important of issues."

So far the minister had been "slow off the mark" and "pussy-footing around on the public stage".

"That's no excuse for not getting on with the grunty work behind the scenes." 

 - Stuff

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