Trade Ministers are a curious bunch. They're usually articulate, well educated, are generally self obsessed about their ability to cut a deal and are forever lauding their successes, or at least taking about the potential.

But in recent years blathering on about success has been misplaced. Our success in doing trade deals in recent years has been woeful, in fairness with the Trans Pacific Partnership not helped by the current occupant of the White House.

National Ministers have been strong on rhetoric but short on delivery.

You may remember the much-lauded free trade agreement with the Gulf States, but then again you may not because it was so long ago. The then-Trade Minister Tim Groser had us believe that the deal only had to be translated from Arabic to English before being signed.


But bubbling away in the background was the moral compass in the region - the Saudis - and their frustration over our refusal to continue with live sheep exports to their country. Even a $13 million dollar farm sweetener by Foreign Minister Murray McCully couldn't do the trick.

Now the deal's withering on the rotting vine with the Gulf States sidelining Qatar which means we can kiss goodbye to the drying ink promised by Groser.

Even the former Prime Minister liked to tickle the media's fancy when it came to lauding his success on trade deals. It was in April last year in Shanghai that he offered us an attractive morsel out of the blue: chilled meat into China within months. The Chinese leadership had signed off on it, we were assured.

It got the headlines alright, but trial shipments to the People's Republic only started the week before last!

And then last week the man trusted with the trade mouth, and he's fond of using it, Todd McClay was talking with his British counterpart Lord Mark Price and was in full fight about a trade deal with the United Kingdom, despite the fact that farmers there have never had an appetite for our lamb.

Britain also has to get out of Europe first before negotiations can even begin, 18 months at the earliest. McClay says that'll pass quickly. How he fathoms that is beyond comprehension.

The fact is this Government, who was gifted the Chinese free trade agreement on coming to power in 2008, has had little success in the area. The only notable one was with South Korea two years ago and even that was started by Labour as was negotiations with Japan which is now leading the TPP charge.

In fact Labour in its time in office was able to negotiate seven reasonably significant deals and who was their trade minister?


Well they didn't have one, it came under Foreign Affairs with Phil Goff, Winston Peters and finally Helen Clark with China being the icing on her cake.