Credit card releases show Trade Minister and Winston Peters bonded over foie gras and snails in Paris

Todd McClay and Winston Peters met over dinner in the French capital. Photos / File
Todd McClay and Winston Peters met over dinner in the French capital. Photos / File

The latest release of ministerial credit card spending shows Trade Minister Todd McClay and NZ First leader Winston Peters tried to put aside their trade differences over foie gras and snails at a bistro in Paris.

McClay took Peters to London, Paris and Milan in Europe in November last year, saying he wanted to build bipartisanship and be more inclusive in trade negotiations. Labour MP David Clark later went to Iran with McClay on a similar trip.

McClay's credit card included about $4000 for Peters' hotels as well as a few meals they shared in Paris at Le Victor Hugo and Le Petit Retro.

The receipts showed the meals including escargots [snails] and fois gras - a pate made from the liver of geese or ducks which are force-fed - a process criticised by animal welfare groups.

Peters said the trip was valuable given it was soon after the Brexit vote - something he said the New Zealand government was ill-prepared for.

"I could ill afford the time but I thought it was important. And that's a fact. It was seriously important for us to see how they thought about where we were going in the future."

Peters had also visited London earlier in the year to speak at the House of Lords and had urged them to ditch the EU and return to the Commonwealth.

Peters has a long history of opposing free trade agreements - he opposed the free trade agreement with China when he was and was vocal opponent of the Trans Pacific Partnership.

He said he was sceptical whether an EU deal would be able to deliver to New Zealand exporters, given protectionist measures in Europe such as agricultural subsidies.

Peters did not recall if he had eaten the foie gras. "I don't go overseas for food or for entertainment. I go overseas because it's serious."

In total, ministers spent almost $2 million on domestic and international travel and accommodation - more than half of which was on international travel.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest spenders on international travel were Foreign Minister Murray McCully ($184,616) and McClay ($176,567) which is not unusual given their roles and the upheavals internationally at the time. It was the final three months of New Zealand's two-year term on the Security Council as well as the Brexit vote and election of Donald Trump as US President - along with his vow to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The highest spending non minister was Labour leader Andrew Little on $58,000 - a total which includes some international travel after his visit to Canada in October. Other MPs who spent more than $30,000 included Green MP Kennedy Graham (who also had some international travel), Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay, Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith and NZ First leader Northland MP Winston Peters.

Other ministers' credit cards were the usual round up of gifts, subscriptions and overseas hotel bills.

The receipts showed Conservation Minister Maggie Barry was true to her portfolio in her choice of gifts - they include wood prints of weta and fantail, and pop-out wooden models of other native birds.

Other gifts were slightly less useful - Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee's office spent $260 on a Swanndri jacket as a gift for US Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr. - who was based in balmy Honolulu and heads the US Pacific Command.

There was also a refund of a $1 donation to Unicef on Nick Smith's card which was put on at the checkout of the Sheraton Hotel. A spokesman said Smith had paid the $1 personally instead because he did not believe it should be on the credit card.​

- NZ Herald

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