Advancing a progressive trade policy.

Stephen Jacobi suggests the need to ensure that trade works for all by making it more inclusive and equitable.

For the longest time trade has mostly been a conversation about business, but, at a time when globalisation is under more intense scrutiny, it is good to consider how trade can be made to work better for people. I will introduce this discussion with some initial thoughts--around New Zealand's approach to trade, around some of the criticisms we see of globalisation today and how we might begin to address these.

It is sometimes said that to live in New Zealand and to be involved in trade, you have to be an optimist. Our small nation of just 5 million people, once described as the last bus stop on the planet, is a long way away from global markets; yet we produce more food than we can eat and the small scale of our market means we cannot manufacture all the products we need. Much of the history of our trade policy has been about trying to overcome what we call the 'tyranny of distance' and trying to get closer to our trading partners.

Of course, New Zealand has some advantages--we are a developed economy, albeit with the economic profile resembling a developing country with a high proportion of primary exports; we have well-educated people, stable and for the most part reliable government, some world-class production capabilities, not just in agriculture and other natural resources but also in niche industries and the new and 'weightless' economy --the creative sector especially--and a 'can-do' attitude.

As a small economy, we rely more than larger ones on the rule of trade law and especially on institutions like the World Trade Organisation, where we have never lost a dispute settlement case but have challenged successfully the European Union, the United States, Canada and Australia. The current trade friction in the WTO between the United States and China and the delay in appointing judges to the WTO appellate body is a particular concern.

We have also pursued high-quality, ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreements with many partners, especially in the Asia--Pacific region. Amongst others, we have agreements with China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Moreover, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)--a veritable mouthful of an agreement--positions us well for the future, with new accessions to the fellowship of eleven existing partners, alas without the United States. A free trade agreement negotiation with the European Union is about to get underway and we have strong interest in a future free trade agreement with Britain once the complex arrangements around her leaving the union have been sorted out.

Comprehensive approach

New Zealand has long been attached to the concept of comprehensiveness --by which we mean including all products, agriculture as well as industrials, services as well as goods, investment as well as trade and the raft of other measures relevant to doing business in the 21st century. Our Labour-led government is also keenly interested in the concept of progressive trade policy, by which is meant trade to benefit everyone, especially those who may not have participated fully in the past --women, small business, indigenous--and where the externalities of trade, such as the environment, climate change or labour, are better taken into account. Our government feels it can tell the story of trade better--three cheers for that--but that we also need a better story to tell.

Having a better story to tell has become more of a necessity in recent years. Partly this is a response to public pressure--at the time of the signing of...

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