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Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Milk scares prompt trade experts plan

Mr Key said the botulism scare and the previous DCD scare which has prompted the Sri Lankan protests had sparked debate amongst ministers. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Mr Key said the botulism scare and the previous DCD scare which has prompted the Sri Lankan protests had sparked debate amongst ministers. Photo / Mark Mitchell

New Zealand may boost the number of trade specialists in Asia in the wake of Fonterra's botulism and DCD scares, Prime Minister John Key says.

But Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff says Mr Key's comment is "deeply ironic" given it was Foreign Minister Murray McCully's restructuring at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) last year that led to the loss of key trade staff.

Mr Key yesterday faced questions about protests over contaminated milk which have forced Fonterra to pause operations in Sri Lanka. Those questions came as the Herald reported a range of New Zealand dairy products remain stranded on Chinese wharves more than three weeks since the botulism crisis erupted.

Mr Key said the botulism scare and the previous DCD scare which has prompted the Sri Lankan protests had sparked debate amongst ministers "about whether we need to have bigger footprint offshore in some of those critical markets".

"If you think about China, we've gone from about $2 billion worth of exports in recent times to about $7 billion and maybe our footprint needs to be a bit bigger there."

MFAT was discussing the issue with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise, "and I wouldn't be surprised if they decide they were going to build their capacity".

The prospect of more money for MFAT comes little more than a year after cost-cutting proposals at the ministry prompted criticism from top diplomats, a number of whom left.

Former Foreign Minister Phil Goff said MFAT lost some of its best trade personnel as a result of Mr McCully's restructuring, "because they were utterly disillusioned with the direction the minister was taking the department".

"It's deeply ironic now that the Prime Minister should be saying we're going to revamp our trade specialists when the actions of his own minister are responsible for gutting that ministry of its best people."

- NZ Herald

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