Thursday, May 22, 2003

It was never going to happen anyway

Looking past all the wailing and gnashing of teeth emanating from the Opposition over Robert Zoellick's comments to the House Agriculture Committee, we have to admit that a free trade agreement with the US was never going to happen anyway. Ambassador Zoelick mentioned the US farm lobby, but I think the Green's Rod Donald said it best with this comment:

The truth is that even if Bill English gets his way and the entire US Pacific Fleet is anchored in Wellington Harbour, vested agricultural interests in the US will simply never allow free entry for our farm products.

Where I differ with Donald is the value of an FTA with the US - I think it would be fantastic. But the very things that would make it fantastic - free access to the US market for NZ agricultural products - are the primary reason why it will never happen. US farmers are simply uninterested in competing against our products, and they have the political muscle to ensure that they can continue to hide behind tariffs and subsidies. And so our best route (as the Trade Liberalisation network points out) is probably through the WTO.