Apr 17, 2008

Phil Goff Did Not Know What Hit Him

11. TIM GROSER (National) to the Minister of Trade: Does he agree that the Doha round negotiations are likely to enter a decisive phase in the next month or two, and that all serious participants are likely to be asked to confirm or improve market access offers, or “concessions”, that are currently on the table?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Trade) : The Government regards the conclusion of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha round as its key priority in trade negotiations. Progress has been made and is being made through the Geneva process, but there are still areas around which agreement has not been reached in agriculture, and there is still a significant distance between the parties in the non-agriculture market access area. We would hope that negotiations might reach a decisive phase next month with the production of texts from the negotiating committee chairs and also a “green room”, but there is as yet no certainty about that. As in any negotiation, of course, all parties will need to show some flexibility if the round is to be successfully concluded.
Tim Groser: Has the Minister seen the joint letter of 11 April from the Australian Trade Minister, Simon Crean, and his US counterpart, United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab, entitled “Doha Dealbreaker”, which states: “It is essential that major decisions on agriculture and industrial goods be accompanied by positive commitments on services.”, and that “Over the next few weeks … we will be looking for key WTO members to signal their commitment to make significant improvements in their services offers.”; and can the Minister confirm that this letter cites transportation services amongst a list of key sectors?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes. I have rather anticipated the member by having the Wall Street Journal article in my hand; in fact, I think that is where he drew his question from. Services, very clearly, are important. I have had the opportunity this week to discuss both with Peter Mandelson, European Union commissioner, and Susan Schwab where the round is at. New Zealand has been a positive player in the area of services. For example, we have supported the January 2008 text on services. New Zealand’s role is regarded as being positive, and no country makes the claim that New Zealand has unfair restrictions on services when compared with the much more restrictive processes that exist in almost every other place.
Tim Groser: Can the Minister explain to the House, given the political decision to decline the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board’s foreign investment application in precisely those transportation sectors, how New Zealand can possibly maintain, let alone improve, its offer of complete liberalisation for airport operation services and airport management services, as offered to all WTO members and set out in WTO document TN/S/O/NZLRev1 of 17 June 2005?
Hon PHIL GOFF: What I can confirm is that when John Key was asked a question on television about this he declined to answer no fewer than seven times, and this response was punctuated by “Um … er … ah.” I can confirm that when National members had the opportunity yesterday to call for an urgent debate in this House, they failed in the courage to do so.
Tim Groser: How would the Minister reconcile moving backwards on this important services offer with the likely general requirement that he may be faced with personally if he represents New Zealand in a couple of months at the much-heralded ministerial meeting, when everyone else is moving forward with improved market access and he will essentially be obliged to withdraw one of the key aspects of New Zealand’s offer?
Hon PHIL GOFF: As the member probably knows, what he has just claimed is utterly inaccurate. New Zealand will move forward on its market services offer, but, as the member will know from the 2003 Cabinet guiding principles, that offer will not require any changes to be made in New Zealand’s existing regulatory settings. We will make a good offer but it will not be at the cost of changing what we regard as necessary to protect this country. That offer will be welcomed. As the member knows, our investment regime is far more liberal than that of almost any other country that will be entering that round.