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.


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.

Antigua vs US

January 30th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The United States has warned the tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda not to retaliate against US restrictions on internet gambling by suspending copyrights or patents, a move that would authorise the “theft” of intellectual property like movies and music.

“The United States has urged Antigua to consider solutions that would benefit its broader economy. However, Antigua has repeatedly stymied these negotiations with certain unrealistic demands,” Nkenge Harmon, a spokeswoman for the US Trade Representative’s office, said.

The strong statement came after Antigua said it would suspend US copyrights and patents, an unusual form of retaliation, unless the United States took its demands for compensation more seriously in a ruling Antigua won at the World Trade Organisation.

“The economy of Antigua and Barbuda has been devastated by the United States government’s long campaign to prevent American consumers from gambling on-line with offshore gaming operators,” Antigua’s Finance Minister Harold Lovell said in a statement.

“We once again ask … the United States of America to act in accordance with the WTO’s decisions in this matter.”

Antigua, a former British colony with few natural resources, has knocked heads with the United States since the late 1990s, when it began building an Internet gambling industry to replace jobs in its declining tourist industry.

The gambling sector at its height employed more than 4000 people and was worth more than US$3.4 billion to the country’s economy, but it has shrunk to less than 500 people because of US restrictions, the Antiguan government says.

The United States said it never intended as part of its WTO commitments to allow foreign companies to offer online gambling services. In 2007, it began a formal WTO procedure to withdraw the gambling concession and reached a compensation package with all WTO members, except Antigua.

Antigua argued in a case first brought to the WTO in 2003 that US laws barring the placing of bets across states lines by electronic means violated global trade rules.

It won a partial victory in 2005 when the WTO ruled a US law allowing only domestic companies to provide online horse-race gambling services discriminated against foreign companies.

When the United States failed to change the law, the WTO in 2007 gave Antigua the right to retaliate by waiving intellectual property rights protections on some US$21 million worth of US goods annually, which was far less than the US$3.44 billion the island country requested.

The key thing here is that Antigua won in the WTO. It is hugely disappointing that the US broke the commitments it agreed to, when it joined the WTO. Australia lost the NZ case on apples access, and they have done the right thing and now allowed access. The US should have accepted the WTO ruling. By choosing not to, they owe Antigua compensation.

If the US wants countries to sign trade agreements with them, especially ones with intellectual property requirements in them, then they need to show that they will honour the commitments they agree to. Otherwise there isn’t much incentive for other countries to conclude an agreement.

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.


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.

A solution for Miss Universe New Zealand

June 17th, 2012 at 8:25 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

Beauty pageant winner-in-limbo Avianca Bohm was spotted out shopping yesterday, apparently with time on her hands as a dispute over her eligibility is sorted out.

The newly crowned Miss Universe New Zealand may be stripped of her tiara because she was born in South African and is not yet a New Zealander. She has yet to fulfil any assignments as the crown holder. Yesterday, she told the Herald on Sunday she could not comment. However, a friend said the 22-year-old was looking forward to the situation being resolved and she was remaining positive.

The waitress has called in lawyers after being told to give up her tiara by organisers. The Herald reported pageant director Val Lott delivered a letter to Bohm, advising her that she was ineligible to represent New Zealand.

Miss Bohm should file a dispute with the WTO, claiming barring her is a trade barrier against South Africa.

It is understood Bohm’s citizenship is unlikely to come through in time for Donald Trump’s Miss Universe pageant.

Why not? If Bill Liu can get his, why not Avianca Bohm? A quick citizenship decision by the Government could be a popular move!

NZ wins apples war

November 30th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

NZPA reports:

Trade minister Tim Groser has welcomed a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling that says Australia’s 90-year-old restrictions on New Zealand apples are unscientific and break international rules.

Australia imposed the restrictions in 1921 to protect local apple trees from fireblight, a pest that also affects pear trees and rose bushes.

New Zealand has been pushing for access to the Australian market since 1986, and after “exhaustive efforts” took the dispute to the WTO.

The organisation’s Appellate Body found in favour of New Zealand in August, but Australia appealed the decision.

In a new decision released overnight, the body upheld its original findings that all 16 of Australia’a quarantine measures were inconsistent with its legal obligations.

The victory should allow New Zealand to resume apple exports to Australia and clear the way for sales to other markets where the fruit is also banned.

At long long last. This should be the end of the track.

If Australia refused to abide by the WTO decision, it would be a massive undermining of its credibility on trade issues. And they would actually be liable for trade sanctions.

The smart people in the Australian Government will be pleased with the outcome. By going all the way to a WTO appeal, they can say to their apple producers they have done everything possible, but they have to obey international law. And it allows them to remove this stain on their free trade credentials.

Editorials 19 April 2010

April 19th, 2010 at 11:14 am by David Farrar

The Herald focuses on media freedom in Fiji:

Two developments in Suva provide renewed evidence of the regime’s distaste for democracy in any real meaning of the word. They must surely have dismissed any thoughts among transtasman officials and politicians of achieving change by appeasement.

This is the unfortunate thing, with the timing. I think NZ, and Australia, were edging towards a more constructive relationship. But this draft decreee pushes them in the other direction.

First, Fiji’s just-published draft of a Media Industry Development Decree would virtually eliminate freedom of expression in the country. It is a remarkable document, one which would make Zimbabwe proud and Singapore blush.

I am one of those who believe taking away a voice is worse than taking away a vote.

The decree protecting the regime from prosecution is a more abstract threat to democracy – a coup leader’s fantasy that surely, once this sorry interregnum is over, will be declared null and void by a legitimate court – with the case against him then reported by a free press. That time can come, though, only if New Zealand and Australia continue to hold hard to democratic principle and the regime is subjected to the greatest sanction, the decision of the Fijian people to call time on their dictator.

This is why I don’t think the Commodore will even surrender power. He has no exit plan which guarantees him immunity from prosecution.

The Dom Post looks at trade with the US:

The US has much to gain from improved access to Asian markets for its goods but it is an unsentimental dealmaker, which swaps its free trade principles for self-interest when it sits down at the negotiating table.

The new ambassador to Washington, Mike Moore, has work to do. So does Mr Key, who is hoping for a formal invitation to the White House later this year and the heft that will give him with US business and farming organisations.

And the ODT talks apples:

The Australian apple market is not huge and estimates for New Zealand exports range around $15 million to $20 million per annum, small but significant.

On the other hand Australian apple consumption is much lower than New Zealand’s and better prices and more competition could be what is needed to stimulate demand.

It can be a win-win,

Australia is in this instance, however, a blatant hypocrite.

It battles for free trade in agriculture while putting up several specific agricultural barriers to protect its own, including against New Zealand apples.

Yes, and if they refuse to act on this issue, will risk undermining their credibility as the WTO can then approve trade sanctions against them.

Editorials 15 April 2010

April 15th, 2010 at 11:09 am by David Farrar

The Herald enthuses over Queens Wharf:

It has been a long and tortuous road but, finally, an acceptable plan for the use of Queens Wharf during next year’s Rugby World Cup has been arrived at. “Party central” will be in a temporary structure on the site of one of the wharf’s two cargo sheds. This has two compelling pluses: the sprucing up of Queens Wharf for the Cup festivities for as low a cost as possible, and the demolition of both the unsightly sheds, an essential precursor to the wharf later being developed to its full potential.

All that is required for the World Cup celebrations is a gathering point. Little needs to be done. A temporary structure housing television screens and places for eating, drinking and dancing will suffice. Solidly constructed, it will easily withstand the buffeting of a wet and windy spring. The swept-up development advocated until recently by the Government was always unnecessary, as well as becoming constrained by time. It could also have resulted in the wharf’s final development being compromised for the benefit of a one-off event.

I tend to agree. People just need shelter, screens, sausages and drink and it will work.

The Dom Post calls on Australia to accept the WTO ruling on apples:

Australia has led New Zealand apple growers a merry dance for 89 years. Now the jig is up.

A World Trade Organisation disputes panel has found that Australian fears that fireblight, a bacterial disease found in some New Zealand orchards, can be transferred from mature New Zealand apples to Australian fruit trees are groundless.

It is past time for the Australian Government to show some leadership on the issue. The ruling is an embarrassment to a government that trumpets the cause of free trade in other arenas, Australian scientists who have lent legitimacy to an illegitimate argument and Aussie growers who appear to believe they cannot compete with their New Zealand counterparts.

Rather than prolong the process yet again, Australian officials and growers should sit down with their counterparts in New Zealand, agree a sensible regime, and develop a marketing strategy that will benefit growers on both sides of the Tasman.

Trans-Tasman believes that the Governments are working on an agreement which would be a good thing.

Editorials 14 April 2010

April 14th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald chomps into the apple debate:

Apple-growers from China, the United States and Chile are queuing to sell their fruit in Australia.

They, especially, will be interested in New Zealand’s reported success in persuading the World Trade Organisation to overturn Australia’s long-running ban on the importing of apples from this country.

But they, too, are the reason Australia is bound to use every conceivable delaying tactic to deny the benefits of that verdict to New Zealand orchardists.

Protection of struggling Australian producers has become the only rationale for the ban in the latter years of its 90 years’ existence.

Hypocrisy for a nation which has championed free trade in agriculture.

In the process, however, Australia is besmirching its reputation as a promoter of free trade. At the moment, its trade practices are the subject of 10 complaints from other countries.

New Zealand has no such cases against it.


The Press also takes up the cudgels on apples:

The reported World Trade Organisation decision which would allow New Zealand to export apples across the Tasman is not just a victory for our pipfruit industry. It is also a big win for New Zealand trade officials and for the cause of free trade itself. For Australia to have used spurious science to block for so long New Zealand apples was nonsensical and a complete contradiction of its otherwise strong free-trade credentials.

If Australia do not accept the ruling, once final, then NZ can apply for and get trade sanctions against Australia. That would be very damaging to the relationship, but may be necessary if Australia refuses to comply with the rules it signed up to.

The Dominion Post focuses on the Waihopai Three:

Father Murnane believes it unlikely that the Government will pursue a lawsuit against them because, he says, they don’t have much money and civil action would cost taxpayers too much.

He is right that yet more court proceedings would not be cheap. But sometimes protesters need to accept that principles can come at a cost.

Messrs Murnane, Leason and Land would surely be prepared to pay that price? If principles are worth standing up for – and they almost always are – those who hold them dear must be willing to go down to the wire to uphold them. If that means having an attachment order assigned to their income, or a lien placed against their property, to meet the cost of paying for damage to public property, so be it. And if the jury verdict was as popular as the triumvirate believes, their supporters will obviously be willing to help fund any damages awarded against them.

The solicitor-general should proceed. Taxpayers should not have to stump up the cash to fund this pointless protest.

The news their claimed poverty didn’t include half a million dollars of land, does make a civil case more appealing.

The ODT looks at competitive education

Comparisons can help human beings, a competitive species, strive to do better – whether in NCEA pass rates or scholarship numbers or in provincial education correlations.

They give schools and communities the chance for pride, often well earned, or for motivation to do better next time.

Sometimes, too, they provide opportunities for finding reasons, often valid, why performances are down the scale. Even if bald results taken at face value can be misleading, they are a part of the information mix.

Except for those who want to ban them.

Great News

April 12th, 2010 at 2:13 pm by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman report:

The Trans Tasman Political Letter reports informed sources in
Wellington advise NZ has won a spectacular victory against
Australia in the World Trade Organisation  in the case it  took
to secure free access to the Australian market for apples.

The sources say the WTO panel, which adjudicated the long-running
dispute, comprehensively rejected the Australian defence.
Australia has blocked the import of NZ apples, despite the
existence of a free trade agreement, and scientific support for
the NZ argument there is no risk of the transmission of fire

This is a huge and long awaited victory.

NZPA provides background:

The trade row has been running since NZ apples were first banned from Australia over 80 years ago after fireblight was found on this side of the Tamsan .

Though New Zealand scientists have found fireblight in Australian ornamental plants and also showed that the bacterial disease is unlikely to be transmitted on mature, clean fruit, efforts to gain access to the potentially-lucrative Australian market in 1986, 1989, and 1995 were rejected.

Further talks over the restrictions also failed when New Zealand was given access with conditions so strict that exports would not be economically viable and so it applied to the WTO for the matter to be resolved in 2007.

If the Australian Government refuses to accept the ruling, them NZ can apply for sanctions. With Rudd, you never now what he might do. He should just accept the ruling.

US goes more protectionist

September 13th, 2009 at 11:20 am by David Farrar

Sad to read in the HoS:

President Barack Obama slapped punitive tariffs on all car and light truck tyres entering the United States from China in a decision that could anger the strategically important Asian powerhouse but placate union supporters important to his health-care push at home. …

The federal trade panel recommended a 55 per cent tariff in the first year, decreasing 10 per cent in each of the next two years. Obama settled on an extra 35 per cent in the first year, reducing by 5 per cent for two years. Beijing yesterday sharply condemned the US move: “China strongly opposes this serious act of trade protectionism by the US.

“This act not only violates the rules of the World Trade Organisation but also violates the relevant commitments made by the US Government at the G-20 financial summit.”

Protectionism may sometimes deliver short-term gain, but at the expense of long-term pain. NZ is a sterling example of this as we got rid of almost all tariffs and subsidies, yet up until the global recession had the lowest unemployment rate in the OECD. Protectionism doesn’t save jobs in the long-term, it merely keeps capital locked up in relatively inefficient industries.

To be fair to Obama, Bush was also a protectionist despite his rhetoric. He slapped tariffs on regularly, against WTO rules. They know they will lose at the WTO eventually, but do it to get through the election.

It is a pity, in terms of trade policy, that John McCain did not win. He was a very sincere and dedicated free trade supporter – his policy was to remove barriers to trade with every country on Earth, except those they have security issues with.

Moore on China

April 9th, 2008 at 7:26 am by David Farrar

Mike Moore makes some excellent arguments:

There are some who oppose New Zealand’s trade deal with China, and want a boycott of the Olympics. It’s precisely because China depends on the global trading system that world opinion on human rights now matters to the Chinese.

Thirty million people perished during the cultural revolution and Mao’s great leap backwards. World opinion didn’t matter to the Chinese then. Now it does, and that’s a good thing.

China is going through the same process as Japan, Singapore, and places like Taiwan. As living standards rise, a middle class emerges that seeks out better social outcomes. Wages in the Pearl River delta in China rose 13 per cent last year.

Seven thousand factories will close this year because wages have moved up and these jobs will head inland, or to Vietnam, even Africa. This is the virtue of free markets and globalisation.

For the first time the Chinese Government is answerable to its own laws – you can now sue the Government.

It’s no longer an atheist state; there are the beginnings of freedom of religion. Over 10,000 Chinese Muslims were allowed to go to the Haj in Mecca. Christians sued the Shanghai Government for wrongful arrest when they expressed their religious beliefs. This is an imperfect and uneven progress that should be celebrated.

All this is healthy and Prime Minister Helen Clark has hit the right note. …

The New Zealand /China trade deal is to be welcomed. Would our competitors turn it down? In fact, our advantage will last only a few years, if that, as others sign up.

All this exposes something else about New Zealand’s political process. Our Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, says he’s not a member of Government except when overseas and may not vote for it. How is this possible?

Peter Dunne has said he will vote for the deal but has the Chinese shaking in their boots by saying he won’t go to the reception. The Maori Party has taken different positions, but one MP said we shouldn’t trade with countries that pay lower wages than NZ. That means we can’t trade with Samoa, forcing them to pay more for goods from anywhere else.

At last the adults in the Labour and National Parties have taken control for a short time and done what is right for New Zealand. This deal is worth a few hundred million dollars to New Zealand, small compared to the Uruguay Trade round, and tiny compared to what this country will get from the Doha Trade round.

Why is it so small? Because the terms of China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation collapsed tariffs in agriculture by 90 per cent. Isn’t it a good thing that China is now inside the WTO and answerable to its rules, obligations, and binding legal disputes system? The WTO and the Doha Round is still the biggest global game.

But New Zealand can do a deal with China and advance the WTO. It’s a melancholy fact the best thing I ever did was leave New Zealand to run the World Trade Organisation. China joined the WTO and the Doha Trade round was launched in my time. Modesty prevents me from pointing this out.

Completing the Doha round would be a better achievement, but to be fair to Moore he can’t be held responsible for that not happening!