How to fix trade in the age of Trump

by | Nov 18, 2016 | Trade In The News

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Written by Crawford Falconer, published in NZ Herald 

Friday 18 November, 2016 – Our trade relationship with the US just got harder. No point simply wringing our hands. We have to work harder and smarter. Some thoughts on how to adapt our approach.

Hit volume control on TPP in DC

Trump can’t say he is going to raise tariffs on Mexico and China, ditch TPP, tear up NAFTA and walk out of the WTO, but just do nothing in office. It is unlikely he will actually achieve all of those, but he will need a scalp or two. And TPP is the easy one.

So, a quick back flip is unlikely. Okay, make the case for it once if you have to. If it doesn’t work, pointless to just go banging on about it.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that some other model won’t evolve, but that will be a longer game.

The ball is in Japan’s court

Assuming that doesn’t work, the rest of the TPP membership should get together and rename it TPPMINUSUS. Japan would be nervous. The rest have to convince them that the US would, over time, come around. Of course they would, once they saw the rest of the Members getting commercial advantages. Japan would be a big winner displacing the US in TPP.

Certainly worth creative thinking. Not least because there is a real threat that, in time, The US will make a play for a straight bilateral deal with Japan. New Zealand would be the biggest loser. Anyway you look at it, we have to up our game with Japan.

Push the envelope

It’s time to scope out radical scenarios. If a new US Administration doesn’t want to play for now, that’s fine. But the best way to promote their engagement is to create attractive working deals. With the UK coming out of the EU, they should be a prime target. They will want quick runs on the board. Why not a model CER-UK-Singapore-Chile-Japan-deal? That’ll get US attention.

If TTIP proves to be as dead as TPP in Washington, why not get those Members together with the remnant of TPP and do a collective deal-with a lower toxicity agenda. It could be just the time for a coalition of the jilted.

Hold onto our cards – we’ll need them

We should bail out of the Trade in Services Agreement in Geneva double quick.

It was never clear why New Zealand would agree to bind two thirds of its domestic economy (services) when the rest of the world was doing precisely nothing on our agricultural market access and anti-subsidy interests in return. When TPP was in the offing perhaps we felt obliged. But we aren’t obliged now.

The last thing we should do is give this incoming US Administration a freebie.

They take TPP off the table and we give away the shop? Why would we send a message to an incoming Administration which says it doesn’t give a hoot about trade that we will offer up our sovereign rights for nothing in return?

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