Chris Trotter has written about the Crafar Farms decision:
AT THE RISK of being branded a “traitor”, I’m declaring my support for the Crafar Farms sale. Not because I like seeing productive New Zealand farmland pass into the hands of foreigners, I don’t. The reason I’m 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 Peoples’ 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 don’t get something without giving something in return. And what we gave China was “Most Favoured Nation” (MFN) status.
In the context of the Crafar Farms Sale, MFN means: “If it’s okay to sell New Zealand farmland to Americans, Englishmen, Germans and Indonesians, then it must also be okay to sell farmland to the Chinese.” Under the terms of the NZ-China FTA, the Peoples’ Republic is legally entitled to no lesser consideration than that shown to the most favoured of our trading partners.
That’s what Prime Minister John Key meant when he said “our hands are tied”. It’s what New Zealand’s leading critic of the NZ-China FTA, Professor Jane Kelsey, meant when she stated:
“If 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 […] The government cannot treat applications from Chinese investors differently from similar applications from other countries’ investors under what is known as the ‘most-favoured-nation’ or MFN rule.”
And that’s 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. We’d 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.