August Trade Update
Trade policy is dominated by Northern hemisphere countries. August is the height of summer in most places so the WTO shuts down, politicians and senior officials go off on holiday. It is not a good time to be suggesting the next round of a trade negotiation.
As politicians in the UK headed away for their holiday Brexit was very much on their minds. The prospect of a hard Brexit with no deal with the EU was looking a real prospect.
One of the few negotiations to be ongoing has been the NAFTA renegotiation. But interestingly, even though there are three parties to the agreement, only two have been actively negotiating – the US and Mexico. It seems as though an agreement between the Us and Mexico might have been achieved. But nothing can be finalized unless Canada agrees. There are big issues still undecided between the US and Canada. These include the issue of greatest interest to New Zealand – Canada’s highly protectionist agriculture policies. Some are talking of an agreement in September but others are skeptical unless the US agrees to take some contentious issues from the table. There is huge confusion over some of President Trump’s recent comments on the US doing separate deals with Mexico and Canada. The Mexicans are disputing this.
Key Vice-Ministers from China were in Washington DC last week to try and break through the current tensions. They did not succeed. Instead the tariff war has escalated.
Not that much has been happening with the rest of the world sitting on the beach. The China-NZ FTA upgrade does not seem to be going well. China is playing tough on dairy. Singapore-New Zealand relations seem to be on an even keel. This might allow for progress on the negotiations to upgrade the FTA with Singapore.
The promotion of the Trade For All Agenda has taken officials some time. Sessions on this are being arranged around the country.