Must have a chat with Tim Groser and David Carter about their language, next time we get together. They became dreadfully mealy-mouthed when defending our economic interests internationally at the weekend, and obviously need a few pointers in the use of expletives.
Groser perhaps can be excused – he came into politics from a career in diplomacy, sipping cocktails while talking diplomatic-speak with fellow diplomats rather than sweating in the milk shed pit and being shit on by cows.
Carter, however, is a farmer. His vocabulary should be much more robust. Perhaps the cockies talk a different language around Ashburton than they do in the Tararua region.
The government and its ministers have much to rail against, after the European Union announced it was reviving subsidies for dairy exporters to help the industry cope with a global price slump.
Exporters will receive funds to make up the difference between EU dairy prices and lower rates in foreign markets. The EU also plans to step up market interventions to buy more butter and dairy products to support prices.
The European Commission said the measures were temporary and needed because of a slide in milk prices that contributed to a 33 per cent decline in butter exports last year.
Yeah, right. In my experience, there’s nothing quite as permanent as a temporary measure.
TVNZ explained why our government must react strongly. According to its account –
New Zealand’s biggest export industry is set to take a hit after the European Union announced it is resuming farming subsidies.
The decision is a reaction to the worldwide credit crunch, but New Zealand’s trade negotiators are calling it a backward step.
Consumer demand for dairy products has fallen dramatically because of the global recession, and that has lowered the prices paid to New Zealand farmers.
The last thing they need now is for Europe to subsidise its farmers to help them through the crisis.
Fonterra’s global trade director Kelvin Wickham was quoted as saying –
“This is like going back to the bad old days of subsidised exporters looking after their producers first at the cost of our farmers.”
Trade Minister Groser and Agriculture Minister Carter, however, responded with all the venom of a defanged geriatric caterpillar.
The European move will exacerbate the weakening of dairy prices that have put our dairy farmers under pressure, “so it’s very unhelpful,” TVNZ quoted Groser as saying.
Get that? The Europeans are being chided merely for being “unhelpful”.
The language was just as piddling in a press statement from Groser and Carter in which they –
expressed concern that the move would send a negative signal at this critical time for the multilateral trade negotiations and the global economy, when all efforts are being made to reject protectionism and to convince countries to remove distortions in agricultural markets.
What’s wrong with an expression of outrage, rather than “concern”?
As Groser reminds us, in recent years the Europeans have taken some positive steps to reform their Common Agricultural Policy, “but this announcement represents a major step backward.”
The European move made it even more urgent that the Doha Development Round in the World Trade Organisation be completed. The agreement by WTO members to eliminate export subsidies in agriculture is one of the most important potential gains from the round.
Fonterra is worried that other countries – especially the United Staates – might jump on the protectionism bandwagon.
We all have cause to worry along with the giant co-op at the prospect of this happening. Dairy produce accounts for around 22 per cent of our export revenue.
In the TVNZ news report, Groser said he would “try to drum up support against the European subsidies when he meets fellow trade ministers in Switzerland later this month.”
In the good old days a country with balls (and the weaponry) would send a gunboat to sort things out. Seems we have neither.