Tuesday 13th Nov, 2018

Kiwi trade minister goes to Canberra in Queensland trade spat

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

NEW Zealand is concerned about Queensland’s procurement policy proposal, dubbed “Buy Queensland”, which favours local Queensland tenders over all others.

Kiwi trade minister Todd McClay is today on his way to Canberra to see his Australian counterpart Steven Ciobo (himself a Queenslander) to register his concern about the policy.

Mr McClay said the policy proposed by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk went against the spirit of the Australia New Zealand Government Procurement Agreement, which was signed 20 years ago this month.

“There are a number of New Zealand businesses in Queensland and Queensland businesses in New Zealand doing good work for our respective governments,” he said.

“We expect Kiwi businesses to be treated the same in Australia as Australian businesses are here – which is fairly.”

Mr McClay said he would register New Zealand’s disappointment and he expected businesses on both sides of the Tasman to be able operate on a level playing field.

“We have a very special trading relationship under CER [the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement]. It is our longest running trade agreement,” he said.

“It works well for both countries, and is responsible for creating thousands of jobs in Australia and New Zealand. It’s important that both governments and the states remain committed to the principles of CER and open trade.

“New Zealand and Australian companies need certainty in each country.”

Over in sunny Queensland, Ms Palaszczuk invited Mr McClay to visit Brisbane to receive a briefing on the procurement policy.

The Premier said New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay should stop muscling up and threatening trade retaliation, and instead come north and get a full briefing on our detailed policy.

“Media reports in New Zealand that ‘Queensland plans to tear up a 20-year-old procurement agreement between New Zealand and Australian states’ are plain wrong,” Ms Palaszczuk said, referring to an article in the NZ Herald, which also reported Mr McClay wouldn’t rule out reciprocal protections on Queensland companies in New Zealand.

The Queensland Premier said Mr McClay’s meeting with Mr Ciobo would be a waste of time because Mr Ciobo’s Department cancelled a briefing on its policy with Queensland government officials on Monday.

“DFAT does not have the benefit of a briefing and are in ignorance of our policy,” she said.

“Mr Ciobo also stood next to me at an event recently as a Federal Government representative and never uttered a word to me or raised any concern about our policy.”

Ms Palaszczuk said it should be clearly understood that the new policy did not exclude New Zealand companies from bidding for Queensland government contracts.

“It does give preference – where possible – to Queensland businesses and jobs. I make no apology for that,” she said.

Last week, the Export Council of Australia (ECA) also registered its concerns about Queensland’s policy.

ECA CEO Lisa McAuley said any “Buy Queensland” policies must be consistent with Australia’s international trade commitments, otherwise they would undermine Australia’s international credibility and risk retaliation.

“States have plenty of opportunities during negotiations to object to any commitments. As part of the process, state governments opt in before an FTA enters into force. The Queensland Government has opted in to all of them,” she said.

“Backing out once they’re in force undermines the whole agreement. The way international trade works is that you have to deliver what you say you will. Otherwise, who’s going to trust you in future negotiations?”

Additionally, Ms McAuley pointed out that international trade statistics provide detailed breakdowns of which goods come from which ports.

“A trading partner could pretty easily work out which of their Australian imports mostly come from Queensland, and put in place retaliatory measures that focus on Queensland exporters,” she said.

“Does anyone think the current administration in the US would hesitate to retaliate if it saw an opportunity and a political advantage?”

Ms McAuley said that by backing out of its trade commitments the Queensland government would put its exporters at risk.

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