Topics handled by WTO committees and agreements
Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

12 and 14 May 2003

Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

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See also:
Press release: Success in weathering external shocks helped by radical reforms

We have had a very productive discussion of the trade policies and practices of New Zealand. We owe this to the full and forthright engagement of the New Zealand delegation, led by Ambassador Groser, to our discussant, Ambassador Ahmad, and to the Members' lively interest in New Zealand's policies.

Members have been impressed by New Zealand's strong economic performance following wide ranging macroeconomic and structural reforms initiated in the mid-1980's. The reform programme has made New Zealand one of the most open economies in the world and has contributed to stable macroeconomic performance in the face of adverse external and climatic circumstances.

New Zealand's liberal stance is reflected in the WTO where it has been at the forefront of the efforts to reduce trade barriers to agricultural and non-agricultural products. In particular, in July 2001, New Zealand became one of the first countries to grant duty-free access to all products from least developed countries. New Zealand was also active in pursuing trade liberalization through regional and bilateral agreements. In this context, in addition to its long standing relationship with Australia under the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Agreement (ANZCERTA), bilateral agreements have been negotiated with Singapore and a “Pacific three” agreement is being negotiated with Singapore and Chile.

New Zealand's economic achievements were praised and it was noted that the Government was targeting higher economic growth in order to raise per capita GDP. In order to achieve this goal, the Government had introduced a “proactive” policy targeting certain high technology sectors, including biotechnology, information and communication technologies and creative industries. A decision had also been taken to halt any further privatization; in this connection, Members noted that some previously privatized companies had recently been re-nationalized. In order to attract foreign direct investment, the Government has also made changes to its policies on foreign investment albeit maintaining a few restrictions, largely on land, considered to be in the “national interest”.

Members noted that as a result of aggressive liberalization, New Zealand had removed import licensing and its tariff had declined to an average of 4.1% in 2002. Concern was expressed, however, over the tariff freeze. Several Members also raised questions about tariff peaks and escalation, especially in sectors such as textiles and clothing that were important to developing countries; however, such peaks are relatively low by international standards. These sectors were also excluded under New Zealand's GSP programme for developing countries. The use of “alternative specific” tariffs, moreover, rendered the tariff opaque and it was suggested that these mixed rates be replaced with ad valorem tariffs. Some Members had questions on New Zealand's intellectual property rights legislation and its intention to join recent international intellectual property rights agreements.

On sectoral issues, while noting that barriers to New Zealand's agricultural exports had been a major impediment to more rapid trade and economic growth, Members had queries regarding New Zealand's export policies and its heavy reliance on agriculture; they also expressed the view that SPS measures were perhaps more stringent than necessary, resulting in an effective ban on imports of some products. With regard to manufacturing, questions were raised on how exactly New Zealand planned to implement its “proactive” policies in the targeted sectors.

Members also sought clarification on several more specific issues including:

  • the role of the Investment Promotion Agency in attracting foreign investment and FDI policies and procedures;

  • participation in regional and bilateral trade liberalization agreements;

  • import and export prohibitions;

  • contingency measures;

  • subsidies;

  • standards and conformity assessment;

  • genetically modified organisms and labelling requirements;

  • government procurement procedures and accession to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement;

  • local content requirements;

  • export promotion and finance;

  • intellectual property rights including legislation on patents, copyright, trademarks, geographical indications and protection of undisclosed information; parallel imports and enforcement;

  • fisheries quota allocation;

  • services; subsidies for services.

Members expressed their appreciation for the oral and written responses provided by the delegation of New Zealand and look forward to responses to outstanding questions.

In conclusion, it is my strong sense that we all highly appreciate New Zealand's liberal stance and active participation in moving the WTO's trade liberalization agenda forward. New Zealand provides a vivid example of the benefits of unilateral market-oriented reform. However, it is also clear from the New Zealand case that the full benefits of reform require a long period of adjustment, the support of the multilateral system — particularly through liberal market access — and a sustained effort. It is in this context that I hope that the DDA will bear fruit and that New Zealand will take the concerns of Members into account in its participation in the negotiations, especially with regard to tariff peaks, largely affecting textiles and clothing, and SPS measures.