Trade and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor is in the UK and Europe this week in an attempt to breathe some life into the crucial free trade agreements (FTAs) New Zealand is negotiating with the EU and the UK.
Early last week, Trade Minister David Parker revealed that the EU had leaked details of the offer to other parties before passing the information to NZ negotiators. He described both the leak and the quality of the offer as “unacceptable” and that it reflected agricultural protectionism in the EU.
Parker noted that presently the EU exports to NZ the equivalent of one kilogram of cheese for every New Zealander, but in return the EU is offering to take a mere three grams of NZ cheese per EU citizen.
Phil Hogan is the EU Trade Commissioner and is ultimately responsible for putting together the deal with NZ. When he was in NZ nearly 18 months ago he told Rural News that he was optimistic that a “quality” free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and NZ could be negotiated before the end of 2019.
Federated Farmers president Katie Milne described the offer as “so insulting low” that she thought they had made a mistake.
“Thanks to this ‘leak’, we are now aware the EU intends to continue to prevent Kiwi farmers from fairly competing in the EU market, while at the same time seeking to impose absurd obligations, such as not allowing NZ farmers to call feta cheese by its generic name ‘feta’,” she says.
Milne says it’s disappointing to see the EU’s trade negotiators ignore the long-shared relationship between the EU and NZ.
Beef+LambNZ (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association have also hit out the offer and the poor diplomacy of leaking the offer. B+LNZ’s Sam McIvor says the leaked details suggests that the EU intends to continue to promote agricultural protectionism.
MIA’s Sirma Karapeeva says the small quota and high out-of-quota tariff makes it difficult, if not impossible, for NZ meat companies to form commercially meaningful relationships and build a stable trade in beef to the EU. She says it’s not credible for a trading partner like the EU, which purports to be a champion of free trade, to maintain small quotas and high tariffs.
Chairman of the Dairy Companies Association Malcolm Bailey launched a withering attack on the EU Commission for the ‘offer’ saying NZ has actually got better access now so why would it want an FTA that makes us worse off.
“What they are offering is taking us backwards,” he says.
Bailey says the EU was all talk about an ambitious, high quality FTA, but says the offer is anything but, calling it a slap in the face.
“It’s very hard not to see it that way,” he says.