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.”
The Prime Minister needs to join Australia and others and immediately take a stand alongside the UK in the wake of the military-grade nerve agent attack on UK soil, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“Following the use of a Russian produced nerve agent in an attempted execution of a British citizen the UK is calling on its friends and allies to join it in taking action against Russia.
“The attack has left a former Russian spy and his daughter in a critical condition and others hospitalised.
“This is an appalling, violent breach of the sovereignty of one of New Zealand’s closest friends. The evidence points to Russian responsibility and the Ardern-Peters Government must join the likes of the European Union, the US and Australia in expressing its support of the UK in the strongest possible terms.
“Foreign Minister Winston Peters is fast earning himself an international reputation as an apologist for Russia and his inexplicable push for a free trade agreement is raising questions and concerns among our closest partners – and threatening our own trade agenda.
“The Prime Minister needs to shut him down and start showing some leadership to our friends and allies.
“This Ardern-Peters Government is continuing to put its personal biases ahead of the national interest and that must stop.”
National’s Trade spokesperson Todd McClay has welcomed confirmation that the significant gains won for New Zealand during the past decade of TPP negotiations have been protected, with the release of the finalised agreement today.
“Signing the TPP will have huge benefits for New Zealand exporters and that’s why we worked so hard for so many years to get the agreement over the line – in spite of fierce opposition from Labour and NZ First,” Mr McClay says.
“It will mean significantly improved access for our exporters to hundreds of millions of consumers around the world and will put our businesses in an even better position to succeed on the international stage.
“What the release of the text has also shown is that the Labour Party’s flimsy justification for leading protests against the deal only to completely flip its position and sign it while in Government were complete spin.
“As the text has shown there are few differences between the original TPP and the CPTPP.
“For example the market access provisions remain the same – in spite of Labour previously claiming they weren’t good enough, the Government can still be sued by foreign corporations, the side letter we signed with Australia restricting that ability remains and the Treaty of Waitangi protections the National Party negotiated remain in place.
“So as we can see the TPP was a good deal when the National Government negotiated and signed it and it’s still a good deal now.
“Labour and NZ First might have changed the name, but it’s still the same deal.”
National’s Trade spokesperson Todd McClay has today written to Trade Minister David Parker requesting a full briefing on changes to the TPP agreement and an assurance that the full text and National Interest Analysis will be released in sufficient time for New Zealanders to assess the agreement prior to its signature.
“The Green Party has confirmed it will not support the amended agreement, meaning the Government does not have the votes necessary to progress the deal without National’s support,” Mr McClay says.
“Many of the Government’s claims over changes to the TPP seem exaggerated. For instance, the Pharmac model has always been protected, an identical Treaty of Waitangi clause is in the original TPP, the Government always had the right to regulate, and tariff reductions remain as National negotiated them.
“The revised TPP still contains an Investor State Dispute Settlement clause and, as previously negotiated by National in the original TPP, all Australian investments remain exempt from dispute settlement.
“Even with New Zealand First’s huge ISDS flip-flop, Mr Parker and his Government doesn’t have the votes to pass TPP without National so I expect him to show the same bipartisanship on trade that was developed over the last two years.
“For a new minister who doesn’t have a government majority on trade he’s not off to a very good start.”