Trade pact key to future, New Zealand consul says
By Erick Peterson
For the Capital Press
YAKIMA, Wash. — If New Zealand Consul General Leon Grice has his way, major countries of the Pacific Rim region will achieve a new Trans-Pacific Partnership by Christmas. And free trade will serve as the basis of this agreement.
Grice said New Zealand grew out of a “socialist” period of the late 1970s to early 1980s to become a top exporter in agricultural products, dairy in particular.
“We have now been the biggest champion of free trade around the globe now for over 30 years,” he said.
Through free market practices, New Zealand has become the 12th largest exporter by value in the world today, according to Grice. He said that country is No. 1 in sheep meat exports, No. 2 in wool and No. 1 in dairy product exports.
New Zealand has 30 percent of total global exports in milk, he said, though it has only 2 to 3 percent of total global milk production. This, he said, is because most other countries do not produce much dairy for export.
He painted a picture of his small country. It has around 11,600 dairies, with an average of 320 acres and 370 cows each. Despite its size, however, New Zealand has become a world leader in agricultural exports through, in part, improved pasture management and sheep genetics.
He predicted that New Zealand’s future is in shifting land into higher value crops and production, moving from dairy to horticulture.
He said his country, the U.S. and others stand to benefit from free trade and further exploration of emerging Asian markets, China and India in particular.
This should be of primary concern to U.S. farmers, he said, as the U.S. market share in Asia has fallen 40 percent in last 10 years. The U.S. could greatly benefit by reclaiming its share in Asia, he said.
He argued for free trade, comprehensive tariff eliminations without agricultural exclusions, science-based food safety regulations and trade promotional authority for the U.S. president.
This last point was important, he said, as he hopes that a TPP deal, once agreed upon between world leaders, does not have to be renegotiated in Congress.
“If you like pig wrestling, you have to accept two things,” he said, speaking of the political process and battling legislation through Congress. “One is, you have to be prepared to accept to be dirty. The second is that you have to accept that the pig likes it more than you.”
Thus, Grice does not want an internal battle over issues within the United States. He wants a constructive agreement between nations, which he sees as entirely positive.
“TPP is more than just a collection of 12 countries,” he said. “It’s the potential to set the rules for trade in the Asia-Pacific for the next 100 years. And those rules include the need for the rule of law, the respect of property rights, labor protection, environmental protection and dispute resolution. It’s a 21st Century agreement. It’s our future, and it’s a pathway forward from regional prosperity, regional trade and regional peace.”