More focus on free-trade for business

By David Porter

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National Party MP Todd McClay. Photo/file
National Party MP Todd McClay. Photo/file

The government's refresh of its trade policy will include an increased focus on free trade agreements (FTAs) concluded or expected to be concluded, and on resolving non-tariff barriers (NTBs), Trade Minister and Rotorua MP Todd McClay told the DANA NZ Forest - Wood Products conference in Rotorua today.

"As we shift the balance of effort from the negotiation of further agreements to making the most of those we have in place, there will naturally be increased attention paid to the resolution of the NTBs that prevent our exporters from maximising the benefits of these hard won agreements," he said in an address prepared for delivery to the conference, which drew high profile Russian, Chinese and North American speakers, as well as several New Zealand experts.

The government was well aware of the concerns from industry and was committed to addressing non-tariff barriers, he said.

"This is a complex area as NTBs are often not directly visible and can be hard to quantify.

Further, some non-tariff measures are justifiable. We're a strong supporter of rigorous and scientifically justifiable measures to protect plant, animal, and human health.

"But, justifiable measures aside, as tariffs are progressively reduced, the growing importance of NTBs - and their detrimental impact on trade - is coming more and more to the fore."

Mr McClay said that the government was striving to make progress on NTBs on a number of fronts. "The complexity of the task doesn't lend itself to easy answers or quick wins. Many NTBs can only be addressed through a concerted multi-pronged and sustained effort."

FTAs were an integral part of the strategy, and contained provisions directed at non-tariff barriers and their appropriate use, he said. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement included specific obligations that would reduce compliance costs by creating streamlined rules, increased efficiency at the border, greater transparency, and improved regulatory coherence.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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