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Trade policy is essential to Nelson. We export more per person than any region in New Zealand. Our export sectors earn $1200 million a year and employ over 15,000 people.

National in both government and opposition has consistently backed freer trade. We championed CER with Australia in the 1980s, Singapore in the 1990s, China in the 2000s, and in the last decade the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement or TPPA. The final deal was agreed to in Tokyo on 23 January but the detailed text only became public last week. 

It gives us better trade access to ten countries around the Pacific. Total estimated gains to New Zealand are $2.5 billion per year. Benefits for Nelson include duty free access for kiwifruit to Japan and wine to Canada.

The TPPA has triggered over a dozen protests in Nelson, more than any issue since the 1981 Springbok tour. Rachel Boyack led the march up Trafalgar Street with a sign saying “TPPA – No way.” Winston Peters described the deal as a “scam and sham”. They like Trump in America exploited a fear of foreigners to whip up anger. The extraordinary part is that New Zealand First and Labour are now backing TPPA and voting for it in Parliament. The Greens to their credit are having none of this duplicity.

Labour and New Zealand First have attempted to justify their change in position saying the agreement has been revised. The amendments total two pages out of 5,000. Changing the agreements name by adding the words “Comprehensive Progressive” TPPA is just window dressing. Nelson’s TPPA protestors will feel horribly duped by the new government when they read Professor Jane Kelsey’s analysis of how little the TPPA has been altered.

Trade access matters hugely to New Zealand living standards. We took a big hit in the 1970s when the UK joined the EU, limiting what we could export there. I am proud that National rose above traditional oppositional politics giving Helen Clark the parliamentary numbers to secure the China free trade agreement in 2008. Exports to China have grown six fold from $2 billion to $12 billion contributing to our recent prosperity. We do not want to be too dependent on China any more than the UK or the US.  A key benefit of the TPPA is opening new markets and spreading our risks.

It is good news for Nelson that the TPPA is concluded. We are a small nation and we will never get prosperous selling goods to just each other. We should not fear the world. Kiwis can complete globally. Opening up new markets for our quality products is about securing more jobs and better incomes for the future.

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