Time for more bipartisanship on trade

With the election over it’s time for more bipartisanship on trade.

Successive New Zealand governments have chosen, with the support of the electorate, to embrace globalisation. With some discordant voices to left and right, public and bipartisan political support for trade has been a hallmark of New Zealand’s economic strategy for forty years or more.

Trade Ministers from both major parties – Lockwood Smith, Jim Sutton, Phil Goff and now Tim Groser – have advanced this policy. New Zealand is fortunate with the range of trade and economic agreements which underpin and support our international business.

Improved trade rules can translate into huge benefits for New Zealand. We saw this with the Uruguay Round in the 1990s, which laid the foundation for the significant expansion of agricultural exports and rising international commodity prices in the last decade. We see the same with China today where exports have surged since the FTA was signed.

Each trade agreement needs to be weighed on its merits. The devil is always in the detail. There are opportunities to be exploited and risks to be mitigated.

TPP is an example of a highly complex negotiation which would benefit from greater bipartisanship in the same way that Labour and National are standing side by side in New Zealand’s quest for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Economic opportunities are enhanced when politicians work together. That applies regardless of the strength of a government in office because trade is beyond the three-year election cycle.

This post was written by Sir Graeme Harrison, Chairman of the NZ International Business Forum (www.nzibf.co.nz).