New Zealand will try to get dairy farmers a better trade deal with China if it’s shown that Australia’s new deal is superior.
However, it’s unlikely to be raised with China’s president when he visits this week.
Australia signed a free trade deal with China on Monday which reportedly abolishes tariffs for its dairy industry in four to 11 years, and produces benefits for beef and sheep farmers from the abolition of tariffs ranging from 12 to 25 per cent.
Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb described the deal with dairy as “New Zealand-plus”, saying restrictions applied on NZ liquid milk, cheese and butter exports won’t be imposed on Australia.
Trade Minister Tim Groser says New Zealand’s current deal negotiated in 2008, only abolishes tariffs up to a certain volume, after which tariffs kick in.
He says these tariffs end in 2019 in New Zealand, and he wasn’t sure if Australia had negotiated to end them earlier.
“If Australia’s got this deal without that provision, having negotiated six years on with the evolution in the market, unquestionably New Zealand will start to raise this with the Chinese authorities,” he told Radio New Zealand.
If Australia does have all dairy tariffs removed earlier, Mr Groser said it should help New Zealand try to argue it should have the same.
The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to New Zealand later this week might seem the ideal time to raise the issue, but Mr Groser said that was probably not appropriate.
“I don’t really think we’re going to do this during this week with the Chinese president’s visit. This has to start off at a lower level than head of government.”
Waikato University Professor Jaqueline Rowarth says the existing deal appears to have a clause allowing New Zealand to try to ratchet up its provisions.