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.”
National Party Trade spokesperson Todd McClay has welcomed news that an agreement on the TPP has been reached – and called on the Coalition Government to release the details of the agreement to the public as soon as possible.
“Signing the TPP will have huge benefits for New Zealand exporters and it’s great to see reports that an agreement has been reached and a deal will be signed on 8 March.
“The agreement was a huge focus for the previous government because it will open up improved access to hundreds of millions of consumers around the world.
“It will mean more opportunities for our exporters through significantly improved access to markets including Japan, Vietnam, Mexico and Peru. It puts our exporters on a more level playing field and we know that when given those opportunities, they will succeed.
“It will also bring the Asia-Pacific region closer together and show that free trade is still possible, and important, in a time of increasing protectionism around the world.
“That’s why it was such a focus of the previous government, despite opposition from all three governing parties.
“New Zealanders should be proud of the role we have played in getting this agreement over the line.
“The National Party has previously pledged its parliamentary support to help get the agreement over the line. We know this is important because Labour’s governing partner, the Greens are opposed to the deal.
“New Zealand First, which has long been a vocal opponent of free trade deals, is yet to state whether or not it will vote for the agreement and has previously voted against TPP legislation.
“While the revised agreement is yet to be seen and the devil will be in the detail, today’s news is a positive step. I call on the Government to release the text and the newly agreed details as soon as possible to allow the Parliament and the public to consider it properly,” Mr McClay says.
The Government should extend the deadline for submissions on their Bill to ban foreign buyers to avoid having to go back and fix it later, National’s Trade spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“Submissions on the proposal to ban foreign buyers are scheduled to close today as the Government was desperate to ram the Bill through ahead of the signing of the TPP. But with the TPP now being delayed, there’s no need for such urgency.
“The Bill as it stands is just bad law and if they do pass it like this, they’re simply going to have to come back and clean up the mess later.
“It is clear the Government doesn’t understand the complexities of the supposed ban – we know that because it’s already unravelling before it’s even gotten off the ground.
“The Government is already being forced to work on an exemption for Singaporeans because it’s discovered a ban would breach our FTA, and Australians have also been carved out for the same reason.
“This is despite the Government’s earlier claims that foreign buyers of New Zealand houses could be banned without breaching any of our international agreements.
“Which country will need to be exempt next? And what will happen to our important international relationships if we refuse an exemption? What is the Government prepared to give away if it doesn’t budge? Will this prevent it getting better access to China for our dairy producers, for example?
“These are just some of the questions that the Government needs to answer. It would be wise to take to a step back to get this Bill right before it does real damage.”
The Minister for Trade and Export Growth needs to put New Zealand exporters ahead of coalition politics and get the TPP deal done, National Party Trade Spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“The Trade Minister’s statement following last week’s WTO Ministerial Conference reveals more for what it doesn’t say and demonstrates rising trade tensions within the Government.
“Today’s statement was completely silent on the TPP, showing that Labour are starting to bow to pressure from their junior Coalition partner - New Zealand First.
“New Zealand First, Labour and the Greens have all previously voted against TPP legislation. The revised TPP very closely mirrors the original agreement signed in Auckland last year and includes an investor-state dispute mechanism, a provision that the Greens and New Zealand First have previously protested against.
“It is clear that New Zealand First’s ongoing opposition to the TPP is jeopardising the process.
“The lack of information or progress on this is especially concerning given that all of the TPP Ministers attended the WTO conference.
“National has guaranteed its parliamentary support for a revised TPP. The Government must make this agreement its number one trade priority.
“It is time for the Labour Government to step up and deliver for New Zealanders. They are at risk of squandering the opportunity to secure a fairer deal for kiwi exporters because of coalition politics.”
The Coalition Government should haul new Health Minister David Clark into line and stop him demanding resignation letters from all the District Health Board Chairs around the country, National Party Spokesperson for State Services Todd McClay says.
“This sets an extremely dangerous precedent across the public services. These people are working hard to lead large and complex organisations on behalf of the public,” Mr McClay says. “It’s demeaning and insulting to require them to sign resignation letters without cause because the new Health Minister wants to show them who’s boss.”
“This is a very bad way to start working with Crown entities and companies,” Mr McClay says. “It’s a highly political approach which I had hoped this Labour government would not follow.
“There are a whole lot of people in those government agencies who are focused not on politics but on getting the job done. The new government would serve New Zealand’s best interests by letting them get on and do the job.
“Health Board Chairs concerned by David Clark’s ham-fisted move could well seek legal advice on the implications this has on good employment practice.
“Labour won’t get experienced people to serve on the Boards of Crown organisations if they are going to hire and fire them on a whim.
“Kiwis would be right to feel concerned by Clark’s drive to stifle hard working public servants. Perhaps Jacinda Ardern should demand her new health Minister signs his own letter just in case.”