The Soap Box: NZ caught in the middle of trade war

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 12 July 2018, 5:15AM
The trade war between China and the United States seems to be coming to a head. Photo / AP
The trade war between China and the United States seems to be coming to a head. Photo / AP

New Zealand is becoming a bit like the new entrant in the schoolyard nervously watching on as the school's bullies slug it out. It'll be only a matter of time before we take sides and that choice can determine our success or failure and the stakes here are enormous.

The trade war between China and the United States seems to be coming to a head with Donald Trump slapping massive tariffs on an ever increasing number of Chinese goods, calling them thieves, and Beijing retaliating.

That's just one of the battles that the bellicose Trump's fighting. The other's in Europe where he's on his now familiar bandwagon of accusing everyone of ripping off the United States where on the one hand they're paying more for NATO than other countries while on the other they're benefiting more than his country with trade.

That's seen 16 former foreign ministers, including our own Don McKinnon, sending him a letter expressing their concern about the deteriorating relationship between the United States and its Western allies. They needn't have bothered, he's getting the same message from the leaders in Brussels where he is at the moment.

Trump will then head off to see the troubled Theresa May in Britain after which he'll meet with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki which he's mused with be the easiest of the three meetings which tends to reinforce the former ministers concerns.

So that's the big playground but in our backyard we've become involved in the scrap where it seems we've been teasing one bully more than the other.  

For the first time China was signalled out in a defence review, in the past it's been by innuendo. They've taken exception making "stern representations" on what they say were wrong remarks. Our acting Prime Minister Winston Peters, no friend of China, was having none of it saying we were simply putting it the way we saw it.

It won't have helped that the following day we were announcing the purchase, for almost two and a half billion dollars, of four maritime spy planes, equipped by the American Government.

The little General Ron Mark indicated we'd got a bargain though. We're getting the benefit of the Americans spending nine billion on developing the equipment, which is 60 percent of the fit out cost of the planes, including anti submarine warfare technology which we're bound to get plenty of use out of - NOT!

If that's not a signal of the side we're on then I don't know what is. It's surely not going to help the current renegotiation of our Free Trade Agreement with China. But then Peters was opposed to it anyway, refusing to attend the signing ceremony as Foreign Minister in 2008 which isn't forgotten in Beijing.

But what seems to have been forgotten is that the free trade queue with the United States for us is never ending.

ON AIR: Mike Hosking Breakfast

6AM - 8:30AM