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With the arrival of 2014 PEN will aim at increasing its activities (and membership) to achieve its vision to double NZ’s Pacific exports by 2018.

A recent holiday in Sydney gave some spare time to catch up on news in the business papers there.

Several interesting pieces caught my attention.

  1. It is 30 years since the $AU floated. The general consensus of commentators is that it has been a resounding success. A good description is that “floating the dollar put a giant bumper bar around the Australian economy, cushioning it from the ups and downs of the global economy”. It removed the back room bureaucrats and politicians from setting the level of the Australian dollar replacing them with the invisible hand of market forces. 
    A similar situation exists here in New Zealand as this year will mark 29 years since the $NZ was floated.
  2. Australia’s export credit agency wrote more loans in the 2013 financial year than the year before despite almost halving the total amount of taxpayers’ funds it provided. The agency has been urged by the Productivity Commission to “substantially reorient” its focus toward smaller exporters rather than big companies that can easily source money elsewhere at low interest rates. 
    This kind of thinking could be usefully considered by PEN in exchanges with the Government this year to make Government agencies more responsive to the needs of smaller exporters who rarely receive appropriate assistance from Government agencies.
  3. Australia has concluded a Free Trade Agreement with South Korea that will eliminate tariffs on Australian agricultural exports including beef, wheat, sugar, dairy, wine, horticulture and seafood, as well as resources, energy and manufactured goods. The agreement includes the controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement procedures known by the acronym ISDS. This inclusion weakens Australia’s negotiating hand in holding out against an ISDS in the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations currently underway. However, the Australian negotiators are under instructions not to do anything within the TPP negotiations that increases the cost of the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme.
    This stance could have an impact on where NZ sits in its current TPP negotiations. The Korea Australia FTA includes a “carve out” in important areas such a public welfare, health and the environment.
    It is ISDS provisions buried in an obscure investment agreement Australia has with Hong Kong that Philip Morris is using to challenge Australia’s plain packaging tobacco laws at the WTO.
    Doubtless 2014 will be the year of TPP being drawn to a conclusion. How it will impact on Pacific exporters is not clear, but it is an area that PEN will need to become fully aware of and act if it impacts negatively on the interests of PEN members.

Catching my attention for 2014

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