Alf is bound to agree with the xenophobic Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa on this occasion.
Cafca regards Federated Farmers as “unbelievably naive” in its reaction to news of a mysterious Chinese company hoping to spend a few billion on dairy farms.
The feds described the wheeling and dealing in dairy farms as an “unintended consequence” of the NZ/China Free Trade Agreement. ”
Pull the other one, says Cafca.
There’s nothing unintended about this consequence, this is how “free” trade agreements are supposed to work. They all come with embedded investment agreements which protect the rights of investors from the countries which are party to the Agreement, and those foreign investors’ rights are backed up by the force of legal sanction.
The NZ/China FTA includes a provision that NZ cannot make or amend laws (without China’s permission) that “discriminate” against Chinese investors.
So this is the outcome of what our brilliant politicians (both Labour and National) have signed us up to.
And this is only chickenfeed compared to what will happen if we keep up this mad headlong rush into an FTA with the US via the new Trans-Pacific Partnership (negotiations started this month).
Dairying is the white gold of NZ agriculture at present, and it would be thrown wide open to the predations of the massive agribusiness transnational corporations that dominate US agriculture.
And it gets worse – the politically very well connected US dairy lobby has already made it very clear that it will fight, tooth and nail, Fonterra’s access to the US market.
Alf smarted at those remarks. He is one of our brilliant politicians – one of our especially brilliant ones, come to think of it.
But there’s a strong whiff of sarcasm in what Cafca says.
They proceed to warn cow cockies to be very careful what they wish for, as they join the lemmings of politics and their media cheerleaders charging towards the cliff of a US FTA (the “holy grail” to its proponents).
You may well end up with the worst of both worlds – locked out of the American market and finding your own dairy farms being bought up from under your feet and you being reduced to the position of Third World peasant farmers, waving goodbye to your product at the farm gate, while others make the money from it. Some holy grail.
As for the Chinese agribusiness buyup of dairy farms, the description of it by its own mouthpieces paints a perfect example of vertical integration, whereby the Chinese owners control every stage of the process from NZ paddock to the sales of the finished product in China.
They clip the ticket at every stage of the hermetically sealed process, with minimum benefit to NZ. It’s simply a new, Chinese, version of the British economic colonisation that dominated this country’s agriculture up until the 1970s.
So, instead of being a “farm for Britain”, NZ will be a milk cow for China. Apologists for foreign land ownership always say “they can’t take the land away”. Why would they want to? It is much more profitable for them to leave it right here,and milk it (pun intended) for all it’s worth.
Cafca notes the media’s highlighting of several aspects of the proposed buyup “that look distinctly Mickey Mouse.”
It then laments that this is definitely not “foreign investment” – it’s a mortgagee sale.
And don’t expect our “oversight” authorities to do anything about it. Natural Dairy has already bought four farms and “neglected” to get approval from the Overseas Investment Office.
No worries to our heroic rubberstampers – it “rebuked” them (what exactly does that mean?) and gave them retrospective consent, a standard procedure for the OIO. Expect more of this stuff as the realities of an “open economy committed to foreign investment and free trade” become more glaringly obvious by the day.
Never mind Gerry Brownlee throwing the conservation estate open to foreign miners, the Chinese are already here to mine milk. And the Americans won’t be far behind if the Government (either National or Labour) persists in this childlike fixation with “free” trade.
This reinforces Alf’s suspicions that we pay the buggers in the Overseas Invesment Office a lot of money to wield their “approved” rubber stamp, a job which could be done by an appropriately trained chimpanzee.
For the most part, the system works well enough (but could be done at much lower cost by the chimps).
Now and again, however, something a bit more demanding comes along.
This is one such case and Cafca is not alone in being worried.
The Herald says Natural Dairy has set alarm bells ringing over its plans to buy $1.5 billion of dairy farms and milk-processing plants here.
Farmers groups and Opposition MPs fear the firm’s plans may prove to be the start of a big overseas buy-up of what is our biggest export industry.
However, the Government is taking a hands-off approach, saying the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) process is strong enough to protect the national interest.
Yep, that’s in line with Nat party policy, but isn’t this the exception that justifies the rule (along with the Mackenzie Country call-in)?
Don’t fret, Alf is assured by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English – there has been an overreaction to Natural Dairy’s plans, given the scant information available.
He is confident the deal will be vetted thoroughly.
Asked about the credibility of Natural Dairy, its business associates, and its offer for Crafar farms, he said: “That is something that would come to the surface in the process of going through the OIO.
“There’s a good investor test in there and they need to be an acceptable investor. There’s also a character test. We’ll see what the OIO does here.”
But Alf fears that when you spend all day rubber-stamping applications, you are apt to slap “approved” on the one that should be pulled out for a harder inspection.
Actually, the chimp might be a tad more discerning.