What exporters expect from the White House talks between Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and US President Joe Biden
Jordan Small is the Executive Director of the NZUS Council.
OPINION: Confirmation that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will conclude her US tour with an official meeting with President Joe Biden is good news for New Zealand exporters.
Despite a Covid-affected schedule, the visit provided a valuable opportunity to shine that momentary spotlight on New Zealand in a market that is large, important and critical to our country’s post-pandemic economic recovery. The invitation from the White House is the icing on the cake.
We should take this opportunity to put back on the agenda a number of concerns that weaken the trade infrastructure that our exporters rely on, especially as a small trading nation and strong supporter of the rules-based trading system.
As revealed in our recent independent commission to research, the relationship we share with the United States is mature, diverse, innovative and increasingly transformative. There’s a great story to tell about New Zealand’s innovation, technology, creativity and sustainability, with trade with the United States growing at over 5% a year for the past 15 years, and the companies driving that growth that are leading the way.
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Our Prime Minister enjoys a global reputation, which positions her as one of our best assets to tell this story. Through his US media appearances, including Harvard’s commencement address, Ardern has made it clear that New Zealand is once again open for business, which is crucial to encouraging tourists, investors and skilled workers. to board an Air New Zealand flight to our shores to help begin the much needed restoration of our export tourism, hospitality and education sectors, as well as our workforce.
But it’s in the high-level political talks that the Prime Minister has the opportunity to advance New Zealand’s position on some of the toughest outstanding issues on the trade front – including US tariffs. on steel and aluminum, the weakening of the World Trade Organization (WTO dispute settlement system) and finding the way forward for a comprehensive free trade platform.
That New Zealand – a friend of the United States and a strong partner in security and defense – still remains subject to tariffs on steel and aluminum for national security reasons, is not not fair. This remains a holdover from the previous administration and needs to be resolved. These tariffs are of dubious merit, and certainly misguided. As a matter of principle, New Zealand should at least be exempt, joining other American friends and partners such as Australia and Japan.
Second, until very recently at least, the WTO dispute settlement process was central to the effective functioning of the rules-based global trading system. The process, and specifically the appeals mechanism, failed when the Trump administration blocked Appellate Body nominations. This means that the ability of WTO members to enforce WTO obligations is severely weakened. As a small trading nation, we rely on this ability to ensure that nations, often much larger and more powerful, fulfill their obligations. A constructive way is needed to make the appeal mechanism work again.
Finally, with the prospects of the United States entering into a comprehensive free trade agreement, whether CPTPP or otherwise, soon looking remote, the case for deeper U.S. trade and economic engagement should continue to be presented. Our part of the world needs an engaged and constructive U.S. commercial presence leading a positive trade narrative on the benefits of an open, rules-based global trading system that is inclusive and sustainable, works for small and medium-sized businesses, protects workers and creates shared prosperity. These are also benefits for American businesses, exporters, citizens and consumers.
As it stands, the Indo-Pacific economic framework proposed by President Biden, while new and innovative and certainly a positive sign of U.S. regional economic engagement, addresses only part of this memory. This may still evolve and New Zealand should be at the table and part of the process, but the ultimate goal must remain US engagement in a comprehensive regional trade pact.
The good news is that the relationship New Zealand has with the United States in all areas, including trade and economic relations, is strong and robust where differences in views can be raised constructively without repercussions. .
The Prime Minister’s trip to the United States gives us the opportunity not only to build New Zealand’s profile, but also to ensure that the foundations often taken for granted, such as a global trading system based on rules that work effectively, stay strong, and continue to provide benefits for decades. come.