Nippert scrutinises Winston’s push for Russia deal

Very pleased to see Matt Nippert apply some scrutiny to this aspect of the agreement between Labour and Winston. He writes:

New Zealand First’s plans to reopen trade negotiations with have sparked the new Government’s first international crisis.

The unheralded policy this week drew an unusually forthright and undiplomatic rebuke from European Union ambassador Bernard Savage.

At a briefing on Tuesday in Wellington, Savage said any moves made towards thawing relations with Russia would be viewed in a “very negative” light.

The policy, written into the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement at the urging of the smaller party, risks harming relations with one of our largest trading partners in order to enhance those with one of our smallest.


According to 2016 figures the European Union is our third-largest trading partner with a total of $20 billion in imports and exports each year, while two-way trade with Russia currently amounts to only $417 million.

Savage’s told those attending that reactivating the stalled Russia deal – suspended since 2014 – would complicate New Zealand’s efforts later this year to secure a deal with the EU.

Russia is basically an international pariah due to its invasions of the Crimea and Ukraine. Yet Labour have signed up to a coalition deal that says they will pursue a free trade deal with them (and Belarus).

This would go down like cold sick with the EU, as the Ambassador has pointed out in unusually blunt terms. The potential gains from an EU deal are huge compared to Russia.

It shows how desperate Labour were to get Winston to put them into Government that they agreed to this. They must be (as I am) very suspicious of why Peters is pushing this. You are naive if you think it is because Peters has suddenly because a supporter of free trade. He has opposed almost every recent free trade deal. So why does he want one with Russia so badly?

Rosenberg said the CTU had their own misgivings about such a deal. “Part of our concerns with Khazakstan, Belarus and Russia is they have absolutely appalling labour standards,” he said.

Yet Labour agreed to this!

The Weekend Herald understands Peters met with Valery Tereshchenko, the Russian Federation ambassador to New Zealand, several times in the year prior to October’s general election. …

Brownlee said he was unwilling to speculate on the nature of Peters’ meetings, but noted his own recent six-month stint as minister of foreign affairs saw him have less contact with Tereshchenko than the then-MP for Northland.

“I don’t believe I’ve met the Russian ambassador at all,” he said.

It is fairly common to meet Ambassadors occasionally. But to meet on such a regular basis suggests that a real meeting of minds.

This of course is what Labour will say is about having a principled independent foreign policy!

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