Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she has yet to receive final world from US officials as to whether New Zealand will be exempt from US steel and aluminium tariffs.
In early March, US President Donald Trump announced the US would be slapping a 25% import tax on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminium. Ardern revealed she had written to the US President to plead New Zealand’s case for an exemption saying New Zealand had a “strong case,” as it does not have a significant trade deficit with the US.
The letter, requested by Interest.co.nz through the Official Information Act, was withheld as making the information "would prejudice the international relations of the Government of New Zealand,” according to the Prime Minister office.
Earlier this month, Minister of Trade David Parker said he was “disappointed” that New Zealand had not yet received an exemption.
Days before, he had put New Zealand chances of winning an exemption at just “50/50.”
Asked at her weekly post cabinet press conference on Tuesday afternoon if she was disappointed about the lack of progress so far, Ardern said she was “disappointed that it had happened in the first place.”
“I don’t think anyone benefits from that kind of trade policy,” she said.
“I think the people who end up worse off do include countries like New Zealand as a result, even though relative to some of the others we’re a smaller player in some of those markets. But ultimately I’m disappointed we’re in this position in the first place.”
Fingers crossed for an EU FTA
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister says New Zealand’s commitment to environmental sustainability when it comes to its trade deals was viewed with optimism by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Ardern was in France last week lobbying the European Union for a free trade agreement with New Zealand.
Macron told reporters he hopes an EU-NZ free trade agreement could reflect a "new generation of trade deals."
Although “not counting the chickens before they hatch,” Ardern says to have had such a positive response from Macron “definitely caused me to come away feeling very positive about our position – much more so than I did prior.”
Agriculture didn't come up
One of the major sticking points with getting a deal across the line with Europe is around agriculture and how a free trade agreement with New Zealand would impact the French market.
But Ardern says this didn’t even come up in her conversations with the French President.
“When he was asked about [this issue] by a French journalist, he spoke instead about his desire to embed environment protections in the agreement and how positive he viewed some of our expectations in that regard.”