Saturday 26 February 2011

Pacific free trade

My guest blogging continued at Pileus during the quake with one queued post there appearing.
Is it better to have a serious free trade deal among a smaller set of countries, or a weaker deal that brings in the States?

I’d put decent money that, if America signs onto the deal, there’d be years of costly arbitration before New Zealand had any kind of increased access to American dairy markets. For starters, American dairy farmers would argue that failure of the New Zealand competition authorities to prosecute New Zealand dairy cooperative Fonterra as a monopoly constituted a subsidy under US law and justified counterveiling duties. Never mind that Fonterra has to rely on farmers voluntarily choosing to supply it with milk rather than supply one of its competitors, and that it’s legally required to supply some of its milk to some of its competitors, while the US dairy compacts and market orders are state-enforced cartels that do everything but shoot potential competitors. If the United States was happy to continue trade action against imports of Canadian softwood in the midst of Hurricane Katrina rebuilding, despite NAFTA, why ought we expect any better for New Zealand dairy?

In exchange for the illusion of access to American dairy markets, we’d likely get some pretty restrictive copyright and intellectual property rules. The hubub over investor protection provisions don’t much worry me – odds are that such provisions would only give a slap to the parts of our Overseas Investment Act regulations that need the slap.
Catch the whole thing at Pileus.

After I submitted the post to Pileus, the University's PR office called asking if I could handle an interview from Canterbury Television (at my office) on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and US/NZ trade. Serendipity! I accepted for 2 PM. I don't know whether the reporter was in or out of the CTV building when it collapsed at 12:50. I could have scheduled for one o'clock, which would have guaranteed out of office by 12:50, but I'd already booked in for a late lunch. And nobody knew what was coming.

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