New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has referred to each of her four overseas trips this year as “trade missions” – a label that will certainly ring true during her visit to Brussels this week. Ardern will need to tap into every aspect of her star power if she has any hope of saving New Zealand’s faltering free trade talks with the European Union (EU).
On Thursday, Ardern will hold direct talks with Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. The former German defense minister has become a familiar figure on New Zealand TV screens over the past few months thanks to her repeated statements of EU support for Ukraine.
Unfortunately for Ardern, however, von der Leyen is more of a figurehead who can only serve as an intermediary in negotiations with the 27 EU member states. And when it comes to New Zealand’s main agricultural exports, the prospects for a lucrative deal are bleak.
Malcolm Bailey, Chairman of the New Zealand Dairy Association, He speaks The EU is “doubling down on efforts to almost completely close its market to New Zealand dairy exporters.”
New Zealand’s initial EU market offer, leaked in 2020, included the export quota is only 1500 tons of cheese per year and only 600 tons of butter. The final agreement will no doubt make some improvements to this low offer, but probably not by much.
Ardern may have hoped that the important foreign policy changes made by New Zealand after Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine would have some impact on the EU’s approach to trade deals with Western partners outside the bloc. After all, at every post-Ukrainian meeting of Western leaders now they talk about solidarity and unity. And New Zealand has certainly made significant strides in the EU.friendly shifts in their foreign policy from February.
Ardern made a historic U-turn on the principle of autonomous sanctions. adoption of the Law on sanctions against Russia in March, before making no less symbolic commitments to defense and deadly aid to Ukraine, and even sending a small number of New Zealand troops to Europe.
Of course, there was never any official indication or even suggestion that New Zealand’s support for Ukraine was part of any quid pro quo. New Zealanders are shocked like no other by the brutality of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion and are urging Wellington to do more to help Kyiv. came from both domestic and international sources.
However, the idea that New Zealand’s agreement with the EU position on Ukraine could affect a free trade agreement (FTA) has always remained hidden.
In March, EU Ambassador to New Zealand Nina Obermeier said parliamentary select committee: “I’m sure the current situation is very exciting for everyone and it will definitely affect how quickly we can complete.”
More recently, Obermeier, who is traveling to Brussels with Ardern, said A free trade agreement between the EU and New Zealand would send “an important signal”, noting that “the appetite for trade agreements in a context where the rules-based global order is under threat has only intensified.”
For New Zealand, a solid free trade agreement with the EU is more than just a nice bonus. By moving New Zealand closer to the West in recent months, either by design or by force of circumstances, Ardern may have put New Zealand at greater geopolitical risk.
News The fact that New Zealand has joined a new US-led group that also includes Australia, Japan and the UK, the Blue Pacific Partners (PBP), further demonstrates how Wellington is drifting westward.
The problem is that while New Zealand is increasingly supporting the West, the West is not fully supporting New Zealand. Neither the EU nor the US is backing their rhetoric of solidarity and unity with the economic deals that New Zealand would need to have a true alternative to China.
The new U.S. Indo-Pacific Economic System (IPEF) may bring some smaller benefits – and could end up being something more – but even the White House recognizes that it is “not a traditional free trade agreement”.
Only the UK seems to have fully realized that New Zealand needed a lifeline for trade. New Zealand was nice surprised the gilded free trade deal it struck with the UK last year — a deal that the UK itself predicted could cut its own GDP in a way that could only be explained by geopolitics.
Of course, US President Joe Biden and Ursula von der Leyen may well object that direct comparisons to the UK are unfair. If it were up to them personally, they would probably be happy to sign a trade deal with New Zealand, which has a population of 5 million, as a small geopolitical price to win another Western country to their side. But Biden can only sign what the protectionist Congress allows (in other words, very little), while von der Leyen faces the almost impossible task of balancing the interests of the 27 EU member states.
By contrast, for all his weakened personal political capital, Prime Minister Boris Johnson still has enough power to easily push a UK-New Zealand free trade agreement through the House of Commons.
Jacinda Ardern is about to scatter stardust over Brussels. But that may not be enough to secure the necessary trade deal with New Zealand.
This article was originally published by The Democracy Project, which aims to strengthen New Zealand’s democracy and social life by encouraging critical thinking, analysis, debate and participation in politics and society.