The flip side of protectionism

Tracy Watkins at Stuff reports:

Spurred on by an aggressive Buy campaign, the big Australian supermarkets are systematically stripping their shelves of New Zealand-produced goods sold under their ‘‘house brand’’ labels, in a move that threatens hundreds of millions  of dollars worth of exports.

Now hands up all those who have been saying that we should have a Buy NZ campaign, and that the NZ Government should only deal with NZ companies?

is bad for New Zealand. Consumers pay more, and exporters get shut out.

Key will raise the issue in his meeting with Abbott in Sydney this week and it is understood the Government has received advice the move could be in breach of the decades-old Closer Economic Relations agreement with Australia.

One option would be for the Government to lodge a formal objection but sources say the situation is complicated by the fact that is a government-to-government agreement, and it is not ‘‘straight forward’’ whether supermarkets are captured by that process.

With respect, I think it is straight forward. Private supermarkets are not captured. CER is an agreement between Governments.

’s economic development spokesman Shane Jones said  it was ‘‘essential’’ Key raise the plight of New Zealand food producers who were being ‘‘monstered’’ by the Australian supermarkets, who controlled 80 per cent of the market.

‘‘They are victimising Kiwi businesses and have created a culture of fear and menace. I have been told New Zealand food producers were warned not to complain about their poor treatment publicly or they would be blacklisted.’’

Is this the same Labour Party that has spent five years insisting that the New Zealand Government should discriminate against Australian businesses, and only let NZ companies win tenders? Isn’t it to complain when Australian businesses do exactly what they advocate?

My consistent view is that quality and price, rather than country of origin, are what you should decide things on. Only if the quality and price are identical or at least similar, should you then take into account country of origin.

But Woolworths Australia is a private company. If they think their customers want to pay more for inferior Australian food, then they can decide to use Australian suppliers only. I think it is a bad business decision, but it is their decision to make.

Where there could be an issue under CER is if the Australian Government is encouraging such protectionism. But I’ve not seen any details in this story that states they are.

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