30 Jul 2018

NZ facing worst rise in trade protectionism in a generation

7:35 pm on 30 July 2018

The man who led the New Zealand team in key global trade negotiations says the world is seeing the worst rise in trade protectionism in 23 years.

Vangelis Vitalis, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, spoke to RNZ at a conference of the meat industry in Napier.

He said years of eased trade rules were in danger of being reversed, and this must be dealt with.

"We have seen 400 new protectionist measures to May have been put in place.

"We know that non-tariff barriers cost the wider agricultural sector of New Zealand up to $6 billion a year in restricted access. These have a profound impact.

"We are seeing the sharpest rise in protectionism since 1995, especially in the last six months."

Mr Vitalis is the former ambassador to the World Trade Organisation in Geneva and was New Zealand's Chief Negotiator for the Comprehensive and Progessive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Asked what can be done, Mr Vitalis said: "We are continuing to negotiate free trade agreements. We are looking to protect and defend bodies like the World Trade Organisation, while looking at creative solutions to make it work."

He said New Zealand had a six point strategy to support the international rules-based trade system and embed the New Zealand economy within regional, multilateral agreements.

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