Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Bali trade agreement cuts red tape for NZ exporters, says forum

Trade Minister Tim Groser. Photo / NZPA
Trade Minister Tim Groser. Photo / NZPA

A new international trade agreement is good news for exporters whose products are held up at borders but will make little difference for consumers, experts say.

Trade Minister Tim Groser said the WTO Bali package approved by 159 ministers in Indonesia yesterday was a "modest deal" with limited direct benefits to New Zealand.

But the cost of failing to reach an agreement would have been "very significant" for international trade.

The talks mostly centred on food security, and the deal would enable developing countries to get around rules on farm subsidies if they were trying to stockpile food to feed their poor.

The most important progress for New Zealand businesses were changes which could cut red tape and ease bottlenecks at overseas ports.

NZ International Business Forum executive director Stephen Jacobi said effects of the deal would not be felt by consumers because New Zealand's customs service was already very efficient.

But it could be valuable to exporters and manufacturers because it would speed clearance of their goods at foreign companies' customs services.

New Zealand companies lost millions each year through exports being stalled at borders.

Mr Jacobi said: "Goods are being held up in customs every day, which adds quite significantly to the cost of the transaction. For countries like New Zealand that are distant from major markets, if you can narrow down time ... then you're going to have some greater efficiencies."

New Zealand had streamlined customs agreements with the United States and Japan, but products were often held up in other countries, including China.

Mr Groser said the agreement did little to advance the main objectives of the Doha Development Round, which aimed to create a level playing field by removing subsidies on agriculture and other markets.

Wealthy countries such as the United States subsidised local agricultural production, which made it more difficult for other countries to break into their markets.

Labour trade spokesman Phil Goff said the agreement breathed life into the bigger negotiations the WTO was involved in.

It was the WTO's first global trade agreement since its inception in 1995.

- NZ Herald

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