WTO commends NZ approach to trade

Friday 3 July 2015

Authors: Ian Gault and Andy Glenie

​​The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has just completed its fifth Trade Policy Review for New Zealand.1 As expected, the WTO endorsed New Zealand’s continuing commitment to global free trade. Here are some headlines from the Review:

  • NZ was praised for its strong commitment to the rules-based multilateral trading system, of which the WTO forms part. Interestingly, NZ has not been a heavy user of the WTO dispute system (laying only one complaint in the last six years).

  • NZ was urged to continue negotiating and expanding its free trade relationships (such as the recent FTA concluded with the Republic of Korea, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Single Economic Market agenda with Australia).

  • Although it already has one of the most accommodating tariff systems in the world, NZ was urged to reduce its bound tariffs overall and to lower tariffs in textiles. A review of the tariff system is due in 2016.

  • There was also approval for NZ’s work in updating the Dumping and Countervailing Duties Act 1988, and for passing the Trade (Safeguard Measures) Act 2014. Some critics understandably wanted greater transparency during the various stages of an anti-dumping investigation.

  • Import restrictions are few now, but there were concerns that some obstacles remain in relation to food and pharmaceutical products.

  • Likewise, there are few remaining restrictions on foreign direct investment outside the transport and telecommunications sectors. Some questions were asked about streamlining the screening processes under the remaining regimes (such as the Overseas Investments Act 2005 and Fisheries Act 1996).

  • The apparent lack of competition in the dairy sector was flagged as a possible issue, as was the retention of a single export desk in the kiwifruit sector. Although the dairy sector is currently under review, the NZ government indicated that it has no plans to revisit Zespri’s position.

  • NZ was also commended for modernising its intellectual property regime, although some wondered why the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 was yet to come into force.

Overall, it was a very positive report card with only one or two minor concerns. Exporters and importers can take comfort that NZ’s trade policy is continuing to head in the right direction.

1 The preliminary Report prepared by the NZ Government is available here. The Report prepared by the Secretariat of the WTO is available here.​​


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