Clarification: This story filed by Fran O'Sullivan from Beijing -'Sack him now' - business savages Peters - was updated regularly thoughout the day on nzherald.co.nz. During editing in NZ, the context of comments by Trade Minister Phil Goff changed for a short time. Mr Goff was referring to content of the criticism of the Free Trade Deal as "bullshit", not Mr Peters' position as Foreign Minister.
Trade Negotiations Minister Phil Goff has confirmed he said criticism of the free trade deal with China was "bullshit" - but claims he was not referring to Winston Peters.
Mr Peters and New Zealand First oppose the trade deal with China, with the Foreign Minister saying the deal did not offer enough concessions to New Zealand businesses.
Mr Goff yesterday met New Zealand business representatives and expats who were in China for the signing of the agreement.
The business people were furious that Peters had bagged the deal, with one urging the National Party to help Labour dump him as Foreign Minister.
He said the trade deal was good for New Zealand, and described criticism to the contrary as "bullshit".
Reports of the comments in the New Zealand Herald today have sparked rows in Parliament and questions over whether Mr Peters can oppose the deal and remain Foreign Minister.
Mr Goff later told the Herald his comments were generic and not directed at Mr Peters personally.
"It is quite in order for Winston Peters as the leader of NZ First and a supply and confidence partner to differentiate his position."
Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen was forced to enter the debate this afternoon under questioning in Parliament from Act leader Rodney Hide.
He told MPs: "I am assured by Mr Goff's office that he made no such comment in relation to Mr Peter's position."
Mr Peters told nzherald.co.nz that Mr Goff's office had contacted him to say the minister had never used the word "bullshit". He said he was seeking a full apology from the Herald.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Peters repeated his understanding that Mr Goff's office said he never used the word.
However, Mr Goff's office had confirmed to the Herald that he had said "bullshit" but said it was used only in general terms in relation to criticism of the free trade deal.
At 6.10pm today, 66 per cent of 1900 respondents to a nzherald.co.nz poll thought Mr Peters could not remain foreign minister while criticising the trade deal.
Former Prime Minister Mike Moore today also stepped into the row, saying New Zealand's system of governance was "moving from farce to tragedy".
"I can't think of another country in the world which would have a Foreign Minister who opposes what his Prime Minister says is a big deal, the NZ/China Free Trade Agreement," Mr Moore said in a statement.
Mr Peters has said his party will oppose the deal because New Zealand could have done a lot better, and he took out advertisements yesterday in metropolitan dailies reinforcing his opposition.
Labour knew of his attitude before the deal was signed, and the legislation enabling it will pass with the support of the National Party.
Mr Moore slammed National and Labour for not speaking out against smaller parties for fear they would need their support to govern.
"New Zealand's governance is in a state if disrepair, it's dysfunctional and the problems systemic," he said.
United Future leader Peter Dunne said he did not see how Mr Peters could attack the deal overseas and remain Foreign Minister.
Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Alasdair Thompson urged Labour and National to "do a parliamentary deal" to oust Mr Peters as Foreign Minister.
"We've just done a deal which will open opportunities for New Zealand business," said Mr Thompson. "Peters wants to shaft us."
He said National leader John Key should offer sufficient abstentions in Parliament so the Labour Government could stay in power until the election.
But that is unlikely to happen. Mr Key yesterday reiterated his position that it was conceivable that Mr Peters could be foreign minister in a National-led government.
Mr Thompson's strident opposition to Mr Peters' stance on the trade agreement was mirrored by many of the business people present at a function held by the Kiwi Expats Association in Beijing to host the visiting New Zealand business delegation.
Bob Fenwick, a past president of the NZ Export Institute, said Mr Peters was "simply disgraceful".
Business people were particularly incensed that Mr Peters had not only taken out advertisements, but was criticising the agreement and planned to make similar comments overseas.
They said he should resign or be sacked.
Mr Dunne yesterday questioned Mr Peters' statements that, if asked, he would criticise the agreement overseas as Foreign Minister and say New Zealand could have done better.
"It would be akin to my going out and publicly criticising the Government's position on tax," said Mr Dunne, who is Revenue Minister.
Mr Dunne is in a parallel situation to Mr Peters - both are the leaders of small parties with confidence and supply agreements with Labour and are ministers outside the Cabinet.
Both are bound by collective Cabinet responsibility on matters relating to their agreements, their portfolios and when travelling overseas.
Mr Dunne said he was not saying Mr Peters should resign, but he said there needed to be a discussion about where the boundaries were.