Thursday, November 23, 2023

Point of Order: Buzz from the Beehive - 23/11/23

We are unsure of Damien O’Connor’s whereabouts, but he brings news today of European vote on the NZ-EU FTA

Great news.

No, not the great news you most likely are waiting for, which is the announcement of coalition negotiations being completed, what has been agreed, who has landed which jobs – and so on.

It is great news nevertheless because it suggests there is life in the Beehive.

Fair to say, it has yet to be posted on the government’s official website, which means it might be bogus.

But it was emailed to us in a format with which the Point of Order team is familiar in the name of:

Hon Damien O’Connor

Minister for Trade and Export Growth

And it said:

New Zealand welcomes European Parliament vote on the NZ-EU Free Trade Agreement

A significant milestone in ratifying the NZ-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was reached last night, with 524 of the 705 member European Parliament voting in favour to approve the agreement.

Whether Damien O’Connor was in the Beehive at the time the statement was emailed is unclear.

Using the Beehive website as a guide to his whereabouts and what he is doing is misleading, because he has not posted a statement there since October 10, when he advised:

Following a review of the dairy quota allocation system, the Government will progress changes to the system in order to maximise opportunities for our dairy exporters.

But didn’t we send him to the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathering in San Francisco?

Among several media reports, Point of Order recalls this from RNZ :

Labour’s Damien O’Connor sole Kiwi face at APEC

Outgoing Trade Minister Damien O’Connor is talking up the trade positives and skirting the geo-political negatives at the APEC summit.

RNZ said the week-long gathering was taking place behind a steel screen of fences and tight security in a downtown convention centre that has been the focus of a multitude of protests from various groups.


O’Connor has been the sole New Zealand face at the summit, chairing the sideline discussions of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade group.

He has also been engaging with the new US-led Indo Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), while representing the country’s foreign policy stance on issues such as Ukraine and the Middle East conflict, mindful of the incoming National-led government’s views.

O’Connor said he had not been given any direct instructions on what stance to take and had continued the broad consensual line of the outgoing Labour-led government.

“There are not too many areas where I think there’ll be a major shift in direction, I’m hoping anyway, by the new government.

“So we’re moving forward as a Labour-led government of course, consulting through the caretaker period with anything that comes to APEC, but basically it’s been consensus and consistent,” O’Connor said.

But there is nothing on the government’s official website to affirm that O’Connor would be our man at APEC – or to advise us when he was leaving New Zealand and when he would be coming back.

In fact, there is no mention of APEC on the website since O’Connor dropped a reference to it in a speech to the New Zealand-China Business Summit 2023 on July 18.

In that speech, he said New Zealand had been proud to establish the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) with Singapore and Chile. It was pleased to have recently concluded accession negotiations with Korea, and we have ongoing discussions with other economies interested in joining, including China.

Looking out beyond the region, New Zealand is continuing to invest heavily in multilateral institutions, such as the WTO. And in norm building institutions like APEC and the OECD.

Happenings in Brussels have galvanised O’Connor to release the statement today and declare:

“I’m delighted to hear of the successful vote to approve the NZ-EU FTA in the European Parliament overnight. This is an important step towards the agreement entering into force,” Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor said.

“The broad support for the agreement from across the European Parliament demonstrates the value of this deal to both parties. The FTA will provide a boost to the already strong trade and investment links between New Zealand and Europe.

“New Zealand is also working at pace to ratify the agreement, so that our exporters can take advantage of its benefits as soon as possible. This could see the agreement entering into force as early as the first half of 2024,” Damien O’Connor said.

Benefits of the deal include:
  • Providing an annual boost to our GDP of up to $1.4 billion, and increase our exports to the EU by up to $1.8 billion per year by 2035.
  • Duties removed on 91% of New Zealand’s goods exports to the EU from entry into force, rising to 97% after seven years.
  • Tariff savings of $100 million per annum on New Zealand exports to the EU from Day One – the highest immediate tariff savings of any New Zealand FTA. This includes the removal of tariffs on products like kiwifruit, mānuka honey, fish and seafood, onions, wine and industrial products.
  • Significant new quota access for beef, sheep meat, butter and cheese – worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year, if filled.
The press statement reminds us that: 
  • On 22 November, the European Parliament voted in favour of ratifying the New Zealand-European Union Free Trade Agreement (NZ-EU FTA), with 524 votes in favour, 85 against and 21 abstentions. This is the largest majority in favour of any EU trade agreement since 2011.
  • Following the approval vote by the European Parliament, there are still some administrative steps required to complete the EU’s ratification process, including adoption of the approval vote by the Council of the EU and the passage of implementing regulations.
  • New Zealand needs to pass implementing legislation in order to ratify the agreement. Draft legislation has been prepared and, once a new government is in place, this will go to Cabinet to approve its introduction to Parliament.
  • Once both Parties have completed ratification, they will notify each other and agree on a date for the agreement to enter into force.
  • The EU is New Zealand’s fourth-largest trade partner, with two-way goods and services trade worth NZ$20.2 billion in 2022, accounting for 10.3% of New Zealand’s total trade in goods and services.
Negotiations on the NZ-EU FTA concluded on June 30 2022 and was signed on July 9 this year in Brussels.

No news has been posted on the government’s official website since the Caretaker Government (after consulting with the Prime Minister-elect) announced further humanitarian support for Gaza, the West Bank and Israel.

That was on November 18.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton


Anonymous said...

Were these negotiations conducted in te reo maori? If not, why not?

Presumably there would have been a translator available to translate into a common language.

Anonymous said...

The working languages for the EU are French German and English. How many te reo Maori speakers have sufficient competence to be professional translators into one of these languages for EU purposes?
It may. Be true to say there is enough flexibility in te reo Maori that if a word doesn’t exist, just make it up.