The Government’s ‘Trade for All’ agenda is simply a rehash of National’s work on trade and won’t make up for plummeting business confidence caused by the Government’s anti-growth policies, National’s Trade spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“Trade for All is nothing more than a shameless rebranding of National’s Trade Agenda 2030 which was aimed at creating opportunities for our exporters to compete on the world stage.
“But while National was consulting on Trade Agenda 2030 with businesses, exporters and the public Labour, NZ First and Green MPs were marching in the streets against the TPP.
“While the Government’s backflip on trade is welcome, it won’t be enough to turn around New Zealand’s worst business confidence levels in ten years.
“We know this is a direct result of bad policies like raising taxes, restricting foreign investment and axing oil and gas exploration – yet the Government refuses to acknowledge that, choosing instead to lecture businesses over their supposed bias.
“By the time National left office, negotiations were underway with the revised TPP, Pacific Alliance, and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and preparation for a free trade agreement with the European Union was in its final stages.
“The UK had confirmed that New Zealand would be first cab off the rank for a new FTA and pre-negotiation meetings between Ministers and officials had commenced. The US had also confirmed they were open to talks.
“Upgrades to our FTAs with China and Singapore also were underway and expected to be completed by now – though those have both been delayed, or perhaps worse, by this Government’s reckless attitude to our trading partners.
“The Government is in panic mode. It will take more than a rehash of National’s work to turn around the lowest levels of business confidence in a decade.”
National’s Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson Todd McClay has welcomed the United Kingdom’s decision to launch public consultations of a NZ-UK FTA but says a negotiation must also ensure better access for New Zealand workers and tourists to the UK.
“The UK market offers huge opportunity for Kiwi exporters. As New Zealand’s fifth largest trading partner with $6 billion worth of two-way trade annually, securing a high-quality FTA is important for our businesses and exporters and that’s why we worked so hard in Government to get it started.
“The UK first signalled that New Zealand would be a ‘first cab off the rank’ for a post-Brexit FTA in March of last year. The fact that New Zealand has been singled out as a priority shows we were right to engage with the UK Government so quickly after the Brexit vote.
“The Government must make the most of the opportunity a trade negotiation presents. In particular it will be important that Kiwis gain better work visa access to the UK, and improved access for agricultural products.
“I also welcome the UK’s interest in joining the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
“Growing the membership of the TPP increases the value and benefits for the millions of people in TPP-countries.
“The TPP is a high quality deal structured to allow other countries to join. I encourage the UK Government to make the most of this opportunity.”
Foreign Minister Winston Peters needs to put Kiwi landlords before foreign diplomats and tell representatives of foreign governments to pay their bills in New Zealand.
“The public will rightly to be appalled to learn the Ministry of Foreign Affairs used taxpayer-funded lawyers to help a foreign diplomat overturn a $20,000 judgement in favour of a Kiwi landlord, after the diplomat left the landlord $20,000 out of pocket.
“We expect New Zealand diplomats to pay their way overseas and foreign diplomats should pay their bills in New Zealand.
“For Mr Peters to hide behind diplomatic immunity when other countries around the world have carve outs to ensure bills are paid is not good enough.
“Mr Peters has recently said that the landlord should have been aware of the risks of letting their house to a diplomat, saying the principle of ‘buyer beware’ was to be considered. Whose side is he on?
“This Kiwi landlord deserves better from his government. Mr Peters should urgently inform all foreign embassies in New Zealand that their immunity will not cover private sector residential rents so that no further Kiwi landlords are out of pocket.
“Mr Peters must put Kiwi landlords before foreign diplomats and do so quickly.”
National’s Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson Todd McClay has welcomed the formal launch of NZ-EU FTA negotiations and says its success will be judged on greatly improved access for our agricultural exporters to the EU market.
“The European Union market offers huge opportunities for Kiwi exporters. As many of our competitors have entered into free trade agreements with the EU our ability to compete there, and to sell to its 500 million consumers, has reduced.
“That must be addressed and the Government must pull out all the stops to get a high quality deal done as quickly as possible.
“It is also important that this is a modern, fair and inclusive trade deal. To be inclusive smaller businesses and service providers must benefit from better trade rules while dairy, beef and lamb exporters must get a much better deal than they currently have.
“Many years of work have led to today’s launch of negotiations and there is significant expectation from New Zealand exporters that the Government will deliver tangible benefits from this negotiation.
“Both the Prime Minister and the Trade Minister need to reinforce New Zealand’s commitment to a FTA with the EU, and ensure a high quality deal is produced for New Zealand and New Zealand exporters.”
Labour has turned its tax sights on tourists with its proposal to impose new taxes up to $35 each on visitors coming to New Zealand, National’s Tourism Spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“There is no reason to make New Zealand a less attractive destination when it is already expensive to get here,” says Mr McClay.
“Thanks to Labour’s new tax, the cost for a family of four travelling here will jump by $166, taking into account the increases in both new international visitor levy and increased visa costs.
“This is a Government that loves to tax. We’ve seen new regional fuel taxes, petrol excise tax increases, the cancellation of National’s tax cuts for families, and now a new tax on tourists.
“In last month’s Budget, Labour increased future operating allowances by $5 billion. It already has plenty of money available for new tourism infrastructure if it chose to use it wisely.
“Instead, our regions hosting tourists have to wait until late next year to see anything from this Government.
“New Zealand’s reputation as a fair destination are under threat from Kelvin Davis’ vague and contradictory proposal to sock tourists with additional taxes.”
In a breath-taking display of incompetence, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis refused to answer questions on his $170 million tourism portfolio during a select committee estimates hearing today, National’s Tourism Spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“Mr Davis has proven exactly why he is considered one of the weakest links in an already struggling Government, with what was possibly the worst performance of any Minister in any select committee ever.
“It’s an insult to the tourism industry that he would not answer simple questions about his plans, and disrespectful to taxpayers that he doesn’t believe he needs to be accountable for spending $170 million of their money.
“Mr Davis must be recalled to the committee and answer questions about how he will spend this money and what the taxpayer can expect from him.
“The New Zealand tourism industry and the 188,000 people it employs deserve far better than a Minister who is not across the detail of his portfolio and, worse than that, doesn’t seem to care.
“The Prime Minister needs to reign Mr Davis in before he does serious damage to New Zealand’s tourism industry and send him back to the committee to answer important expenditure questions.”
The Ardern-Peters Government’s employment law changes will cause significant problems for New Zealand’s tourism industry, National’s Tourism Spokesperson Todd McClay and Workplace Relations Spokesperson Scott Simpson say.
“The tourism sector has rightly put its hand up and said these reforms will make it harder to sustain and grow the sector,” Mr McClay says.
“In particular they have singled out the rest and meal breaks provisions as completely inflexible and unworkable.
“This is a sector made up of a huge variety of businesses that are busy at different times of the day and different days of the week. Requiring everyone to down tools at the same time is impractical for a service sector dealing with international visitors.
“It’s also telling that the tourism industry identifies that the 90 day trial changes will work in exactly the opposite direction than the Government intends,” Mr Simpson says.
“This sector, which employs over eight per cent of New Zealanders, is known for taking on young and new workers and giving them their first jobs. Surely that’s what the Government wants.
“When tourism operators say the law change will make it riskier and less likely for the operators to take a chance on people on the fringe of the workforce, they should be listened to.
“The test will be whether the Government chooses to listen, or whether they have decided they’ll ram these changes through regardless of whether they are good for our country and our workers.”
“The tourism sector is the largest export industry in New Zealand and it’s made up of a huge number of mostly small businesses,” Mr McClay says.
“If they haven’t earned the right to have their concerns acted on by central Government, then who has?”
National Party Trade Spokesperson Todd McClay welcomes news that the Prime Minister will prioritise discussions about a free trade deal with the European Union and a Post Brexit Trade talks with the UK as part of her visit to Europe and London this week.
Mr McClay says the UK confirmed in February last year that New Zealand would be ‘first cab off the rank for a trade deal’, with negotiations expected to commence early next year.
“It is also my expectation that unless something disastrous happens, the European Council of Ministers will meet at the end of May to give the European Commission permission to formally start negotiations for a free trade agreement with New Zealand,” Mr McClay says.
“This is very good news for New Zealand and comes after more than five years of discussions and hard work under the previous National Government.
“An FTA with the EU will be worth billions of dollars a year and has the potential to create thousands more jobs for New Zealanders.
“It’s encouraging to see that the Prime Minister will be placing the EU-NZ and UK-NZ FTAs high on her European agenda, however some EU countries will still likely have questions about New Zealand’s position on Russia.
“Given her Government’s unusual enthusiasm for a Russian trade deal, the Prime Minister must very clearly explain New Zealand’s position to avoid any doubt about our commitment to formal trade talks with the EU and UK.
“It’s important that the Prime Minister gives them a clear answer and assures them that an EU trade deal and UK FTA is a real priorities for New Zealand.”
There is obviously something both confusing and concerning about Russia and its effect on Winston Peters as evidenced by his performance in Parliament this afternoon, National Foreign Affairs spokesman Todd McClay says.
“Mr Peters simply can’t bring himself to do what dozens of Governments already have, and hold the Kremlin accountable for the attempted assassination of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
“Again today Mr Peters was dancing around the issue of who poisoned the Skripals, suggesting some other party besides the Kremlin might have been responsible.
“When asked in Parliament ‘has he received sufficient evidence that Russia is responsible for the Salisbury nerve agent attack on British soil?’ Mr Peters responded: ‘To the best of anyone’s investigations of thus far, the product looks like it was manufactured in Russia, that it was sourced out of Russia, about as to who the perpetrators of that violent terrorist crime, that is still a matter of substantial investigation in the UK.’
“That answer is simply astonishing,” Mr McClay says.
“It suggests dozens of countries have jumped the gun in expelling suspected Russian intelligence agents from their countries.
“Winston Peters has taken the Government right back to where it was when the Prime Minister instigated damage control last Friday evening by issuing a clarifying statement that didn’t quite finger Russia as responsible, but at least said ‘Russia has serious questions to answer.’
“Has Mr Peters’ bought into the Kremlin’s theory that the UK Government might be responsible for attempting to kill the Skripals?
“Is the New Zealand Government saying Theresa May and the Governments who have supported her have got this wrong?
“Is this the real reason New Zealand hasn’t expelled any diplomats?
“It’s time for Jacinda Ardern to step up, pull Mr Peters into line, and finally show some real leadership in what is becoming an Achilles’ heel for this Government.”
National Party Trade spokesperson Todd McClay says that the Trade Minister should stop pretending he ‘fixed’ the TPP with his side letters and admit that they have no real effect on the agreement.
“The Government hinging its support of the revised TPP on the changes made to the ISDS clauses by five side letters is completely farcical,” Mr McClay says.
“Four of the side letters signed by the Government do not represent countries that have any significant investment into New Zealand and as a result make no material change to the ISDS requirements for New Zealand.
“The combined overseas investment of the four new countries, Malaysia, Vietnam, Peru and Brunei Darussalam total less than half of a per cent of the overall foreign investment to New Zealand.
“Considering that the ISDS clauses were the main issue for Labour and New Zealand First, the fact that they are now using these carve-outs as justification to sign the ‘revised’ agreement is completely ridiculous.
“Further to this, the side letter that was signed with Australia is identical to the side letter that National negotiated. So there is no change at all to the ISDS clauses for Australia.
“Mr Parker should stop acting like the TPP has been ‘fixed’ and come clean to his colleagues and the country on the fact that his changes make no material difference.
“National negotiated a good deal for New Zealand and it remains a good deal. The Government needs to stop playing internal politics with the TPP and they all need to get on board with the agreement.”