Fran on the Groser beatup

August 2nd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

The faux outrage over Tim Groser hosting a so-called lavish dinner at which Patagonian tooth fish was served is absurd.

Critics probably don’t think of themselves as “food Nazis”, but trawling through the Trade Minister’s credit-card receipts and beating up on him for eating a protected fish – when in fact the Chilean sea bass is legally sold internationally – paints a miserable and petty picture.

Groser can’t recall whether it was he or one of his two guests who ate the offending fish or, quelle horreur, enjoyed foie gras.

It’s pathethic.

Could you imagine being at dinner with four of your ministerial colleagues from other countries, and as one of them orders the fish, that Groser should step in and demand that his colleagues order something different. They would think he was bonkers.

The point about Chilean sea bass – a good choice, by the way; I’ve eaten it in Chile and Argentina and it is delicious – is that it is legally fished within quota limits like many other species, and has been by New Zealand companies in Antarctic waters.



Herald on WTO bid

April 21st, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Green Party is upset that Trade Minister Tim Groser’s international travel costs soared to almost $250,000 in the first three months of this year as he lobbied for support for his bid to be the director-general of the World Trade Organisation.

As far as I can tell the Greens don’t support there being a WTO, or in fact trade. The logic seems to be:

  1. Trade requires transport
  2. Transport requires power and fuel
  3. Power and fuel cause greenhouse gas emissions
  4. Greenhouse gas emissions cause global warming
  5. Global warming will destroy the planet
  6. Hence trade is evil and must be stopped

True, that sum is more than the combined totals of the Cabinet’s other frequent flyers – the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Defence Minister.

But it pales into insignificance when viewed alongside the potential gains for this country, and for global trade, if Mr Groser were to succeed Pascal Lamy at the end of August.

The main advantage for New Zealand, if Groser wins, is that he is the best person for the job. This means he represents the best chance of getting a global trade agreement to conclude the Doha round. Such an agreement would be worth billions.

The knowledge and experience gained from these ventures into areas of huge complexity make him the candidate most likely to achieve a successful conclusion to the Doha round talks.

It may well be that the fact that no director-general has ever come from Latin America will thwart his bid. That, however, is no excuse for pettiness.

Well said.


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Groser makes WTO short-list

April 16th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports:

Trade Minister Tim Groser says his bid to become the next director-general of the World Trade Organisation is no longer “a long shot”.

From the original nine candidates, Mr Groser has made it through the next round of five candidates.

Over the next few weeks, they will be reduced to a shortlist of two.

“What we thought was a very long shot I don’t think you could describe as a very long shot any longer,” he told the Herald.

Mr Groser is a former trade ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), based in Geneva.

He is competing with candidates from Indonesia (Mari Pangestu), South Korea (Taeho Bark), Mexico (Herminio Blanco) and Brazil (Roberto Azevedo).

He said he needed strong support from developed and developing countries to survive this far.

“Given that three out of four members in the WTO, 120 out of 159, are a developing country, I needed to get strong support from developing countries to survive politically.

I would not be surprised if Tim makes the final two. However my expectations are that while Groser is the strongest candidate (by far) on a personal level, being from a developed country will count against him with most of the voting countries. Hence when it gets down to the final two, the other candidate will win through.

I hope I am wrong, as we need a strong WTO to liberalise world trade and Groser would do an excellent job.

The Guardian profiles the five remaining candidates. I think Roberto Azevedo from Brazil could be the one to beat.

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Groser nominated for WTO Director-General

December 22nd, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key has confirmed the Government’s nomination of Trade Minister Tim Groser for the job of World Trade Organisation director general.

Key said Groser’s name had been put forward to replace Pascal Lamy, whose successor must be agreed by the end of May.

The WTO decides the rules for world trade.

“Given Tim Groser’s experience in trade, and the blend of both technical and political skills he brings to the table, I believe he is well-placed to advance the complex and challenging issues facing the WTO,” Key said.

“The organisation has a vital part to play in the global economy recovery.”

Former Labour Prime Minister Mike Moore is the only New Zealander to have held the position previously.

I think the vote is in April actually.

There is no doubt Groser is the best individual for the job, in my opinion. His appointment would be great for the WTO and great for liberalising trade.

However many countries do not vote for an individual, but vote for a country. The fact that Mike Moore was the Director-General in the 1990s means some may think NZ have had their turn.

If Groser does get the job, it means another mini-reshuffle for Cabinet on top of the one in January to replace David Carter becoming Speaker.


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Groser for WTO?

August 30th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

 Trade Minister Tim Groser has to decide whether he wants to throw his hat into the ring for the director general role at the World Trade Organisation, John Key says.

The prime minister said a number of countries had expressed an interest in Groser applying for the position and New Zealand would support him if he did.”That is obviously a big call and a big step.”

Groser would need to consider it.

“If that happened and he decided to put his name in the ring then the New Zealand Government would give him 100 per cent support.”

He would be a “magnificent” leader of the WTO, Key said, but added it was a tough battle for the top job.

“It’s not easy to get over the line and it would be challenging but there certainly is a number of countries internationally that are interested in supporting Tim Groser and have approached him.”

Tim would be a big loss from Cabinet if he did stand for and become WTO Director-General. But he could do more good in that role, so I hope he does stand. There may be some resistance though to a Kiwi being the 6th WTO Director-General, just a decade after another Kiwi was the 3rd Director-General.

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New Minister announced

April 2nd, 2012 at 1:39 pm by David Farrar

Congrats to Simon Bridges who has been appointed Consumer Affairs Minister, plus Associate Transport and Climate Change. It was inevitable Simon would become a Minister at some stage – after three years and four months is pretty good time-wise.

Chris Tremain gets promoted to Cabinet, drops Consumer Affairs and gains Internal Affairs.

Amy Adams picks up Environment in exchange for Internal Affairs. A big vote of confidence in her abilities.

Tim Groser gets Climate Change (he already had the international negotiations side of it) and David Carter gets Local Government.

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Gregarious Groser

June 5th, 2010 at 8:09 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Trade Minister Tim Groser has been warned, after a complaint was made about rowdy drinking and disruptive behaviour by him and some members of a trade mission on a flight from Dubai in April.

But another member of the delegation has defended the minister, saying that if he had a few drinks they were “well deserved” after a stressful trip.

A complaint about the behaviour of the delegation and the minister on the April 30 flight was made to the Prime Minister’s office.

Chief of staff Wayne Eagleson spoke to Mr Groser on behalf of Prime Minister John Key, a spokesman for Mr Key said last night.

“The minister acknowledged there had been some drinking on the flight, but he felt his behaviour was appropriate,” he said.

“The Prime Minister made it quite clear through his chief of staff the expectations he had in terms of ministers’ behaviour.”

It is hard to say much about this story, in the absence of specifics. The complaint did not come from a fellow passenger, but from someone who heard about it from a fellow passenger.

Ministers (and all MPs to some degree) are always in the public eye, and have to act accordingly. This means no giving the fingers to people who steal your car park, and also means being a model passenger on flights.

Now as I said, there are no details about this flight, and the complaint was from someone not on the flight. It may be something quite trivial. Also a factor is that he was returning from a trip on which he learnt his mother had died while he was overseas.


A small shuffle

January 26th, 2010 at 6:27 pm by David Farrar

John Key has announced:

Steven Joyce becomes Tertiary Education Minister, allowing Anne Tolley to fully focus her efforts on the Education portfolio, and in particular the implementation of the Government’s national standards policy.

I said almost a year ago that I thought both Education and Tertiary Education was a huge workload, especially with no Associates from your own party.

I will be fascinated as to Steven’s approach to tertiary education. It has quite a few pressure points in it.

Kate Wilkinson becomes Conservation Minister, a portfolio in which she is currently Associate Minister. This change reflects the fact that Tim Groser is frequently out of the country representing New Zealand’s interests in the Trade and Climate Change fields.

In other words Kate has effectively been the Minister, so this makes it official.

Mr Groser, because he has primary ministerial responsibility for the international negotiations aspects of Climate Change, will have a change in title and becomes the Minister Responsible for International Climate Change Negotiations.

That should not take up too much time, as there isn’t much to negotiate. The US, China and India are all running 100 miles an hour away from an agreement.

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And another free trade deal

November 3rd, 2009 at 10:25 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand has successfully concluded negotiations for a free trade agreement with six oil-rich Gulf states, Trade Minister Tim Groser announced yesterday.

The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), made up of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain, is New Zealand’s seventh-largest trading partner with bilateral trade worth $3.85 billion.

Not bad. Mind you I don’t think Groser should be given time off until we have free trade agreements with every country on Earth, bar North Korea.

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Working together for NZ

October 7th, 2009 at 6:08 am by David Farrar

blog NZ100509

A photo of US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, with Goff and Groser, taken from Kirk’s blog. Fran O’Sullivan writes:

A public show of Kiwi bipartisanship infiltrated Washington yesterday as Trade Minister Tim Groser and his predecessor, Labour’s Phil Goff, paid a joint call on the Obama Administration official who calls the shots in United States trade. …

Kirk would have been left in no doubt after his meeting with the two men over the common commitment the major New Zealand political parties have towards advancing the cause of trade liberalisation in two pivotal areas: completing the World Trade Organisation’s Doha Round, and getting some traction on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement involving the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, Peru and Chile. …

But Groser, who has met Kirk six or seven times in the past few months, noted that while patience is the name of the game for those wanting to negotiate with the US, it was important that National and Labour demonstrated a united front on trade.

His invitation to Goff to join him at the meeting with the Trade Representative showed all the skills of his pre-politics background as a seasoned trade negotiator.

While neither politician would put it this directly, at least not in public, the political utility from a New Zealand perspective in presenting a united front means the US will not be tempted to play one major party off against the other when it comes to negotiating any bilateral tradeoffs within the prospective TPP.

Always good to see bipartisanship in the trade area. Both major parties have supported the free trade agenda since 1984, and long may it continue.

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FTA with Malaysia concluded

June 2nd, 2009 at 8:44 am by David Farrar

As the USA and Europe goes protectionist (or remains it), thank God for Asia. Tim Groser has just announced the FTA with Malaysia has been concluded.

“Malaysia is our seventh largest trading partner – last year we exported nearly a billion dollars worth of goods to Malaysia with two-way trade worth nearly three billion. Goods exports alone have grown 34 per cent a year since 2005.

I didn’t realise they were 7th.

With NZ First out of Parliament, the only party that will vote against will probably be the Greens.

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Groser speech on Trade

May 21st, 2009 at 3:50 pm by David Farrar

Last week Tim Groser gave a very good speech on trade to the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC. Worth reading the whole thing, but some extracts:

Clearly there has been erosion in the confidence of the American people in trade policy. It is more serious than it has been for some years but at base, it is not a new phenomenon. People tend to forget that the NAFTA squeezed through the US Congress by a narrow margin back in 1993.  President Clinton, during his first term, tried and failed to get what was then ‘Fast Track’ negotiating authority.

Let us see if we can agree on a more general point. Around the world, not just in Washington, trade is a hard sell politically. Like many trade negotiators I have been dodging protestors – frequently violent protestors – everywhere from New Delhi, Sao Paulo, Brussels, Geneva and let’s not forget the Battle in Seattle.

Unlike NZ, where there is a fairly strong pro-trade consensus, trade liberalisation is very unpopular in many places.

What is the problem here? Have we trade negotiators brought nothing but misery to the world? No, quite the contrary. There is overwhelming evidence that steady, incremental trade liberalisation, widening from its initial narrow focus on industrial tariffs, has underwritten a huge growth in trade, which has in turn been central to higher productivity, higher growth and the spread of technology to improve peoples’ lives.

Developing countries that have picked up on the message and developed strategies of export led growth have transformed their economies. We don’t need to imagine what Korea would be like today if South Korea had not embraced a market-led, export-led strategy. We don’t need to imagine it because we only need to look to their North to see it. I am sure you have all seen those satellite photos that, taken at night, show a dark patch on the Asian continent as the satellite moves across the DMZ from South to a North Korea, substantially without electricity, food or anything much of use to their people’s daily lives.

The same with West and East Germany.

Nor is this expansion of the trading system without highly favourable political and strategic consequences. This is far broader than merely commercial matters. There is an equation between open economic and open political markets. That is an equation that certain leaders in this great town – justifiably called the world’s capital – have always understood over the past 50 years. …

As the US works through the issues, I hope those responsible will not make light of this broader strategic point. That equation between open economic and open political markets has not gone away. If the trade issue is seen simply as some type of mercantilist score card, with pro-trade lobbies on one side and anti-trade lobbies on the other, you will not get the right result.

Free trade leads to freer countries. China still has a massively long way to go, but is far less repressive than decades ago.

Now I do not want to insult any merchants in the audience, but it is worth recalling that the intellectual father of the market economy famously said: “When two or more merchants are gathered in the same room, it is usually for the purpose of deceiving the public”.

The market economy must have appropriate regulatory frameworks around it to meet Adam Smith’s point and to be sustainable politically. The market economy has not failed by any rational historical measure – it has been an astonishing success compared with command or feudal economies. It has created vast wealth, a massive increase in life expectancy everywhere, mass literacy, a huge decline in hunger, malnutrition and disease, the spread of economic freedom and ultimately has underpinned the recent remorseless growth towards improved human rights and diverse forms of democratic government.

But completely unregulated capitalism does not make any sense, politically or economically. The problem with the current financial implosion is clearly that the regulatory frameworks had not kept up to the speed of financial innovation. In my view, it is not a failure of the market economy we are witnessing – it is a serious failure of the regulatory frameworks around the market economy.

What an excellent way to put it.

Robert Zoellick, now President of the World Bank and of course a former USTR of great distinction, pointed out recently that the World Bank has shown that 17 of the G20 countries that made a public promise to resist protectionism have implemented trade-restricting measures. Lowering the bar on legal protectionism is no small achievement.


I give you another example. Within the last few months New Zealand and Australia signed a deal with the ten countries of ASEAN whose quality likewise surprised onlookers. Again, within about a decade, we will have one large and fully integrated free trade zone involving the economies of Australia, NZ, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand and all the other countries of South East Asia. The rest of the world may be having a long reflective conversation with itself on trade, but the countries at the core of the Asia Pacific region are not. We are doing business.

And long may it continue.

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Tim Groser on Climate Change

March 23rd, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald has an interesting Q&A with Tim Groser on climate change. Some extracts:

With the Kyoto Protocol due to expire in 2012, what are the biggest obstacles to developing a new treaty?

The number one issue is participation. Countries that have obligations under Kyoto account for less than 30 per cent of global emissions and that number is falling. It does not include developing countries or the United States.

It seems likely the United States will join the next agreement when negotiations begin in Copenhagen in December. Does that leave developing countries as the biggest challenge?

I don’t think you can separate the issue of the United States joining from developing countries joining. Everyone expects developing countries will do less than developed countries, but they must do something or we are wasting our time.

Kyoto is very flawed. By 2050 it would reduce average global temperatures by only 0.07 of one degree. The sucessor must include all major emitters.

Couldn’t other countries argue it is just as difficult for them to reduce emissions as it is for us to cut agriculture emissions, for example countries that rely on electricity from coal?

Agriculture is in a special category. There are solutions to the generation of electricity from coal but there are no ways to reduce enteric methane. There are a series of interesting ideas in a lab, but nothing that is commercially available.

Which is why we should be careful not to start taxing farmers for the emissions, when there is little they can do about them except shoot every tenth cow.

Should agriculture emissions be completely exempt?

No. New Zealanders want to do their fair share. We argue that all countries must look at what practical potential they have to reduce greenhouse gases.

Any other big issues for New Zealand?

Forestry. The rules negotiated at Kyoto assume all carbon from trees is released as soon as you cut the trees down and that is not necessarily true. Kyoto also penalises people who want to cut down forests and plant them in a different place.

New Zealand wants to transfer more of its forestry to marginal hill country and under the current rules that will cost a lot of money.

Yes the rules should allow you to offset forests without penalty. This allows land to be used for the purpose it is most fit for.

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Groser on Agenda

November 30th, 2008 at 4:21 pm by David Farrar

Just watching Trade Minister Tim Groser on Agenda, and it is nice to see someone who is so obviously an expert talk on their portfolio area. This isn’t always possible (or resirable) in every area, but likewise it is nice to have one of NZ’s top lawyers as Attroney-General, rather than a non-lawyer.

Later on Mark Unsworth from Saunders Unsworth talked about the new MPs, and opportunities for promotion. He was pretty complementary of the new MPs from both parties (as I have been also). But what I thought was most interesting was his words on the difference between Ministers in John Key’s Cabinet and Helen Clark’s. Unsworth said it won’t be three strikes and you’re out for Ministers, but more like one strike and you are out. And unlike Clark there won’t be a recycling of Ministers six months later by putting them back in, but once you are out, you stay out.

While I don’t think it will be quite as black and white as that, I do think that life will be very different for Ministers under John Key. Up until her final term, Clark had very few realistic options for promotion, so Ministers were safe. Key has a number of very competent and ambitious MPs in the 2005 intake who will be keen to be Ministers within the next term, and a fair few of the 2008 intake will be aiming to become Ministers in the second term (if there is one) if not before.

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The Auckland Seats

November 12th, 2008 at 1:34 pm by David Farrar

Starting at the top, the three northern seats of East Coast Bays, North Shore and Northcote were solid blue. Their party votes went up 9%, 4% and 11% respectively.  In East Coast Bays almost three times as many people voted National as Labour. These seats now are counters to the South Auckland seats.

The personal majorities were 12,800, 13,200 and 8,500 respectively. Northcote was held by Labour up until 2005 and Jonathan Coleman this tme incraesed his majority by around 6,000.

Out west we saw the near impossible – National won the party vote in all three West Auckland seats. Tim Groser worked hard on New Lynn to lift the party vote by 10% to 41%, with Labour dropping 12%. Te Atatu went from 32% to 42% and Waitakere from 33% to 42%. Listing the vote 10% in Westieville was great work.

Paula Bennett’s win in Waitakere is all the more remarkable because of the new boundaries. They had her 6,000 votes behind in 2005 and she won by 900. Groser reduced Cunliffe to 3,500 from a paper majority of 12,000 – also one of the biggest swings! Finally Chris Carter dropped to 4,500 from 7,500.

In central Auckland we have Auckland Central. National lost the party vote by 12% in 2005 and won it by 5% this time. This seat has been held by Labour since 1919 (apart from once going further left to the Alliance), making Nikki Kaye’s 1,100 vote victory all the more remarkable.

Mt Roskill also just went to National on the party vote, and Goff’s majority went from 9,400 to 5,500 – still very safe. His leadership predecessor in Mt Albert won the party vote by 6%, and had a slight dent in the electorate majority from 11,400 to 8,700.

Epsom went from 58% to 63% for National on the party vote, with Labour falling to under 20%. Rodney Hide drives his majority from 2,000 to a staggering near 12,000. They liked his dancing. Tamaki also remains solid blue with another 60:20 split on the party vote. Allan Peachey saw his majority go from 10,300 to over 15,000.

Maungakiekie was another big mover. The party vote went from a 13% deficit to 45 lead. And Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga scored an 1,800 majority from an close to 7,000 majority to Labour previously. Sam is one of the most well liked guys in the National Party, and had one of the biggest teams in recent memory on the hustings. He had between 10 and 25 people door knocking both days every weekend.

Out East we have Pakuranga which was no surprise. It is another close to 60:20 seat. Maurice is very popular locally and scored a 13,000 majority.

Botany. This brand new seat got the second highest party vote in Auckland for National – 62%. Pansy Wong also got a 10,000 majority. ACT’s Kenneth Wang was in third place but got a respectable 4,500 votes.

Papakura. The party vote went 52% to 28% for National, and Judith Collins took a 6,800 paper majority and turned it into a 9,700 real one.

Finally we have the three M seats in South Auckland. Mangere, Manurewa and Manukau East. Mangere saw Labour’s party vote go from 73% to 61%. In Manurewa it was from 61% to 50% and Manukau East from 65% to 57%. But turnout was down also and in absolute terms, Labour went from 55,000 votes to 38,000 over the three seats.

Thankfully Labour’s Sio beat Taito Phillip Field by 11,300 to 4,700

Note the above comparisons are all to 2005 results adjusted to new boundaries. Also a more formal analysis will be done when we have final results.

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Historical treaty claims due in by midnight

September 1st, 2008 at 8:00 am by David Farrar

The deadline for filing historical (prior to 1992) Treaty of Waitangi claims is at midnight tonight.

Claimants have had over 20 years to file their claims, so the deadline is far from hasty as the Maori Party claim. Indeed as Chris Finlayson says, there needs to be an end to litigation at some stage.

The Waitangi Tribunal has been publicising the deadline and has generated several hundred claims. I honestly doubt a single genuine claim has not managed to be filed.

The good thing about today, is that from tomorrow on the number of unresolved historical grievance claims can only start reducing. God knows how long it will take to consider and hopefully resolve them all, but we will have a known number of claims for the Tribunal and Government to work through.

Dr Cullen has done a sterling job in advancing Treaty settlements since he took over from Mark Burton. If National win the election, they should aim to match Dr Cullen’s pace. Luckily they have considerable resources to call on:

  • Chris Finlayson, who speny many years as Ngai Tahu’s lawyer and is very knowledgable in this area
  • Tim Groser, one of NZ’s top negotiators (and the settlements are very much a negotiation)
  • Georgina te Heuheu, a former member of the Waitangi Tribunal

Of course premature to speculate on what portfolios, MPs may get, but just wanting to show that the work of resolving historical grievances should continue, and settling such grievances in fair, full and final settlements is a win-win.

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Treaty Settlements Ministers

June 16th, 2008 at 10:31 am by David Farrar

Grant Robertson comments on the suggestion by Te Pumautanga o Te Arawa that all future Finance Ministers should also be Treaty Negotiation Ministers also.

Dr Cullen has made admirable progress, and should be congratulated for it. I suspect his job was made easier by the fact that he got to replace Mark Burton who showed the same skills at Treaty Negotiations as he did with Electoral Finance.

I would not tie the job into the Finance Minister job (even though Bill English would do a fine job) but I agree with Grant you do want Ministers who are motivated to do the job and have some mana. National has at least three people who could contribute very well to the portfolio.

Chris Finlayson is the current spokesperson and has worked in the Treaty area professionally before he entered Parliament, and has good relations with many prominent Iwi leaders. Georgina te Heuheu is a former member of the Waitangi Tribunal, and was NZ’s first female Maori lawyer. The other person whom I would advocate should be included (I think the portfolio is important enough one should have one or maybe two associate Ministers) is Tim Groser. Tim is a highly experienced negotiator in the trade field, and at the end of the day a large component of Treaty settlements is a commercial negotiation.

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Groser to attend FTA signing

March 20th, 2008 at 5:47 am by David Farrar

It is good to see the Government has invited National MP (and former trade negotiator) Tim Groser to the China FTA signing. A bipartisan approach to trade policy is commendable.

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