Now I’ve seen everything.
Winston Peters wants talks for a free trade agreement with Russia urgently kick-started, warning that we need to be on both sides of any new cold war that starts in Syria and not just cuddling up to “Uncle Sam”.
Surely this is tongue in cheek. But no. The former Foreign Minister seriously suggests New Zealand should replace European food in Russian markets, following a Russian ban on imports from the European Union.
The EU’s sanctions date back to March last year and Russian president Vladimir Putin’s adventure in Crimea and Ukraine. Russia responded by refusing to buy EU imports. That’s one reason for global dairy market over-supply and the collapse in dairy prices.
Technically, there’s nothing to stop New Zealand selling to Russia, but simple trade and diplomatic calculus suggests it would be an own-goal. That’s why Trade Minister Tim Groser cut short Russian free trade talks in March last year at the time of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. It’s why Fonterra hasn’t embraced Russia as a golden opportunity. Doing so would have almost certain trade and diplomatic consequences among traditional friends, Europe and the US.
We’d become an international pariah.
To think Peters was once Foreign Minister.