Protectionist Shame

In my NBR online column, I praise Phil Goff for the outstanding results from the China Free Trade Agreement and lambast the Government with continuing existing tariffs until 2015. Some extracts:

So in the week we should be celebrating the success of free trade, the National-led Government bizarrely decides to continue with our current tariffs on imports, freezing them in place until 2015.

A 5% tariff on processed foods, machinery, steel and plastic continues on, as does a 10% tariff on clothing, footwear and carpets. …

Tim Groser surely knows that even without a free trade deal, it makes economic sense to reduce tariffs. It incentivizes capital and labour to flow into industries where New Zealand has a competitive advantage. We unilaterally reduced tariffs in the 1980s,1990s and 2000s, and up until the global recession had the lowest unemployment rate in the world.

So why is a National/ACT Government failing to reduce tariffs, when even a Labour/NZ First Government managed to do so? And was this not a missed opportunity for Phil Goff? He could have brilliantly done a Clinton triangulation and claimed credit for the 60% increase in exports to China, and lambasted the Government for being protectionist. That would have caused shockwaves, and forced Tim Groser to front up and explain why he thinks a 10% tariff on footwear should continue until at least 2015.

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