Tuesday, 26 February 2019

1973 is the new black

Richard Harman's Politik newsletter is one of my few daily NZ must-reads. 

He's unlocked today's headline piece.

You should read it and subscribe.
New Zealand's top trade official is flying to Britain to be there when Britain proposes to leave the EU on March 29 to deal with any threats to New Zealand’s lamb exports.

In recent weeks British farmers and a key Cabinet Minister have called for massive tariffs to be placed on New Zealand lamb.

POLITIK understands that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is so concerned about the threats that it wants its Deputy Secretary, Trade and Economic, Vangelis Vitalis, on the ground in London as Britain quits the EU.
Two years ago we were imagining opportunities for a UK-NZ free trade deal. Michael Gove pretended to be somebody who liked free trade, and that the EU was holding a free-trading Britain back.

NZ lamb currently enters the EU under a tariff-free quota: imports up to the quota are without tariff. The EU and UK are looking at ways of splitting up their shares of that quota. But:
But Gove, speaking six days ago at the British National Farmers’ Union conference said:” One thing I can reassure you is that it will not be the case that we will have zero rate tariffs on food products. There will be protections for sensitive sections of agriculture and food production.

“You (farmers) have argued that we need tariffs on sheep meat, beef, poultry, dairy, both milk and cheese; and pig meat in order to safeguard domestic production,” he said.

“Your concerns have been heard, and an announcement on new UK tariffs in a no-deal scenario - with specific and robust protections for farming - will be made shortly.”
Hopefully Gove's misspoken here and there won't be an end to tariff-free access to the UK.

Good thing New Zealand has pursued a very broad free trading agenda, including the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement and the China-NZ FTA. Just in case NZ winds up getting the shaft - again - instead of a NZ-UK FTA.

Here's Gove's full speech of 19 February. It does not include the line saying there will be no zero-rate imports. But the BBC's coverage included it:
Many supporters of Brexit argue that tariffs on food and other items should be scrapped in order to lower prices for consumers. But farmers fear that cheap imports and lower standards would destroy many parts of British agriculture.

"Your concerns have absolutely been heard," Mr Gove told a conference of the National Farmers' Union (NFU). "It will not be the case that we will have zero-rate tariffs on food products.

"There will be protections for sensitive sections of agriculture and food production."

He added that an announcement on a no-deal tariff schedule "should be made later this week".
1973 was a betrayal. I hope Gove was misquoted or misspoke here. Pulling this stunt, after NZ sent negotiators to help the UK, and after May provided NZ with assurances about trade continuity...

Let's all wish Vangelis the best of luck. In a better world, he'd be heading there to negotiate the expansion of the NZ-Australia free trade and free migration area to include the UK and Canada. Not to beg that NZ be able to continue lamb exports.

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