Chris Trotter has written aboutĀ theĀ Crafar Farms decision:
AT THE RISK of being branded a ātraitorā, Iām declaring my support for the Crafar Farms sale. Not because I like seeing productive New Zealand farmland pass into the hands of foreigners, I donāt. The reason Iām in favour of the sale is because I believe New Zealanders should keep their promises and fulfil their undertakings.
In 2008 this country ratified a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Peoplesā Republic of China. That agreement was hailed as the most important foreign policy and trade achievement of the Helen Clark-led government of 1999-2008. Not only was it the first such agreement to be signed between China and a western-style democracy, but it also offered New Zealand businesses immense economic opportunities.
Those opportunities were, of course, reciprocal. The Chinese have been merchants and traders for the best part of three thousand years. They needed no reminding that in this world you donāt get something without giving something in return. And what we gave China was āMost Favoured Nationā (MFN) status.
In the context of the Crafar Farms Sale, MFN means: āIf itās okay to sell New Zealand farmland to Americans, Englishmen, Germans and Indonesians, then it must also be okay to sell farmland to the Chinese.ā Under the terms of the NZ-China FTA, the Peoplesā Republic is legally entitled to no lesser consideration than that shown to the most favoured of our trading partners.
Thatās what Prime Minister John Key meant when he said āour hands are tiedā. Itās what New Zealandās leading critic of the NZ-China FTA, Professor Jane Kelsey, meant when she stated:
āIf the New Zealand government had declined the Shanghai Pengxin purchase of the Crafar farm it could have faced an international law suit for breaching its free trade agreement with China [ā¦] The government cannot treat applications from Chinese investors differently from similar applications from other countriesā investors under what is known as the āmost-favoured-nationā or MFN rule.ā
And thatās not all. Had the application from Shanghai Pengxin been declined by the Overseas Investment Office that decision would almost certainly have been challenged in a New Zealand court. And rightly so. Weād have broken our own rules.
This is why I read and enjoy Chris Trotter’s writing. He is partisan but not so blinkered that he can actually see reality before him.