Trotter on Crafar

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.


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  • Magoo

    Director James Cameron buys New Zealand farms. I wonder if the left will attack Cameron for doing what they condemned the Chinese for.

  • mara

    Does this mean that whenever China wants to buy NZ farmland, the offer ticks all the “right”  boxes and they make the highest offer,  that we must sell to them? Or is NZ able, at any point, to say no; enough is enough?

    • Anon

      Singling out China just make you look xenophobic. And don’t even try to deny it.

      Your question will be alot more valid, and something I’d agree with, if it’s worded like ..

      “Does this mean that whenever a foreign company wants to buy NZ farmland, the offer ticks all the “right” boxes and they make the highest offer, that we must sell to them? Or is NZ able, at any point, to say no; enough is enough?”

      • mara

        Anon. If you care to, have a look at   ” China Plants Bitter Seeds in South American Farmland”.  “Culture Clash Seen with Wave of Investments.”    Are South Americans xenophobic too?   BTW, I think  xenophobia is, like racism, a much overused and devalued word.

    • James Gray

      No, it just means we need to treat china consistently with out other trading partners. 

  • Pete George

    Goff Labour made a habit of ignoring or not caring about basic common sense like this from Trotter.

    Shearer Labour is showing worrying signs of following their last term tradition. Seems like the strings are being pulled by the same old.

  • Anonymous

    With all the media attention on the Crafer Farms deal, it was always somewhat amusing when the Pinko’s & hearing even David Shearer comment that this deal had NOTHING to do with the FTA with China….. Give me strength you Pinko’s…

  • Await the death threats from the Standard…

  • AnonWgtn

    Shearer’s political knowledge is scant to say the least. He is a boy trying to do a man’s job.
    He may be able to translate instruction from the UN in New York, but lacks experience here.
    He is not being helped by members of his own caucus, one his deputy, who is very politically experienced, but has no intention of really helping Shearer – they are very different people actually. He and the Rainbow’s want the top jobs, and on recent opinion polls will get them in 2014.
    Shearer is out of his depth and needs to get on board fast, or he will be out by Christmas, as some in Labour, who did not vote for him, want.

  • Mark Jacobs3453

    Good article by Trotter. But he is two faced.

    Hear him now on the Tumeke website….it seems like he has totally forgotten about the article he wrote 2 weeks ago.