It has been three months since the Prime Minister wrote to US President Donald Trump asking for an exemption to new tariffs – so why has there been so little development?

It has been three months since the Prime Minister wrote to US President Donald Trump asking for an exemption to new tariffs – so why has there been so little development?
Cartoon of David Parker by Jacky Carpenter

New Zealand is still yet to secure an exemption for US steel and aluminium tariffs, despite consistent lobbying from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Mfat).

A Spokeswoman for the department says the issues are “complex and we are unlikely to see a quick fix specific to New Zealand.”

This is despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Trade David Parker’s assurances in March that New Zealand has a “strong case for an exemption.”

Later that month, US President Donald Trump slapped a 25% tariff on steel imports and 10% for aluminium.

Officials at Mfat have been working behind the scene since March to secure an exemption for New Zealand.

But their efforts are yet to bear much fruit.

Documents, obtained under the Official Information Act (OIA) by, reveal Parker lobbied New Zealand’s US Ambassador Scott Brown for an exemption a week before Ardern sent the letter to Trump.  

The Prime Minister’s office refused to make public that letter when it was sought by under the OIA.

Talking points provided to the Minister for a phone conversation with Brown on March 12 show Parker was encouraged to “register [his] concern about the impact these tariffs would have on New Zealand exports of those products.”

The notes also say that New Zealand’s small steel and aluminium exports to the US “pose no threat to the respective US industries or to US national security.”

New Zealand’s steel and aluminium exports to the US make up just 0.1% and 0.06% respectively of total US imports for these metals.

NZ still ‘disappointed’ about being caught up

Since the Minister’s conversation with Brown, the New Zealand embassy in Washington has “continued to press the US for a full exemption on steel and aluminium,” talking points provided to Parker by Mfat on March 2, say.

Although there appears to be no word yet on if the lobbying has been successful, a Mfat Spokeswoman says the Government believes there is a “strong case for New Zealand to be exempt from the tariffs.”

In March, Trump said the tariffs were a way to narrow the US’ $800 billion trade deficit.

New Zealand has a slight $60 million trade deficit with the US – to put that in context, the US has a $43 billion deficit with China.

“We remain hopeful that an exemption will be possible in due course,” the Spokeswoman says.

But she says Mfat remains “disappointed” New Zealand exports have been caught up in the US tariffs on steel and aluminium.

Both Parker and Ardern have outlined the same sentiment over the last few months.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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NZ is required to be pulled in line and go along with what the US says ... signals galor are being sent to us to follow US interests and keep our trade with China in check ... it is "you are either with us or against us !"
US domination and demonstration of power mentality.

Dr. Paul Buchanan's article published here lately was a prime example of the pressure exerted on NZ and hints to get squarely in line. The language used was anything but diplomatic.

The latest Defence strategic plan which pissed the Chinese off few days ago will not cut it ... I guess much more is required to become a really "good" ally.

Trump - New Zealand - Meh. I think most New Zealanders overestimate NZ's importance in the world.

NZ has a GDP about the same as Phoenix AZ I believe. The only deep interest & knowledge Trump has ever had in relation to NZ, was probably a former model girlfriend

Also very keen on Bob Charles.

Quebec a province in Canada has about the same GDP as New Zealand also
NZ is part of the 5 eyes network so don’t underestimate it
Trump doesn’t read & he has failed to staff government departments adequately If NZ were to offer a photo opportunity with FoxNews then he would listen & reply immediately

Try asking the right question.

Labour are in the same position - choosing to assume there is no sinking. Trump represents the frustrations of a dying Empire, the last one possible in the fossil-fuelled growth period. From here on, 'trade deals' are the l;est of our worries - we need leadership to see us through and past the bottleneck.

You have Leadership
She’s just on maternity leave

Taxinda is a position of leadership, but she’s not a leader, she’s just playing at it.

When I was in Noosa, an Aussie said you guys have a new PM and you all love her. I replied it’s not the position at all. It’s what some media are trying to project the position as. When he saw I was not a fan, He then said, yeah we had a laugh with the refugee offer. So naive.

I don't think anyone's expecting a card-carrying party member to have any esteem for the current PM, no matter her performance over her time as PM.

The reverse applies as well. If the left believe true leadership has been shown they are setting a very low bar. I couldn’t even picture Taxinda as a primary school principal, let alone managing her Cabinet of incompetents. When she grows a pair and holds them to account then I might start to see what the attraction is. If Retired Poppy and Rastus are correct about the coming apocalyptic financial condition be very worried.

Jury will be out until sufficient time has passed.

We had nine years with Key and got to see him give last, last, last, last chances to Collins while abandoning his ambitions on fixing the (subsequently nonexistent) housing crisis and increasing NZ productivity to catch up with Australia, so that gives Ardern some room to improve.

So right winger rex pat met a right winger Aussie and had a right winger backslap party..

well, that was enlightening wasn't it.

Our leadership is left wing.. little further and the norm over the last few yrs.
That alone will simply have trump quickly glance at any papers concerning this, instant reply
"Not interested, and I dont do deals with ppl who disrespect me"
Rem Arderns put down of Trump?
Therefore we are very naive to expect anything out of the US.
Very much how the Modern Rome empire has worked since the WW1, except this president is in your face and honest about it... That is not a complement of Trump at all.

Or maybe a trade off with the new Air force planes? Nah this government are too short sighted and naive to think of that.

We are the pimple on the backside of the World in terms of geo political importance. I exercised with the US Military prior to the Labour Government’s election in 1984. They were polite but had no real idea where NZ was. Once the anti nuke policy came in and ANZUS ceased to exist we were persona non grata. When Taxinda made comments about Trump She was dog whistle politicking. Naive doesn’t begin to describe it. Just like I responded to Didge a while back, if you think you can chide non blood relations and have no come back then you are naive. I have an example in my family where one unwise series of word led to years of estrangement denying contact with their grand children.

Agreed the American are always polite. And the Americans, particularly the military, are not soft. I can take you way back before 1984. My father served on General Thompson’s staff in Fiji, circa 1943. The NZ’s were very keen to have the RNZAF fly close support missions to the island hopping Marines but they were quietly and politely detailed reconnaissance and rescue, eg, Hudsons ,Catalinas. We like to say NZ punches above its weight, and largely that is true. Per head of capita our WW2 casualties are at the high end internationally and the highest in the Commonwealth. But the reality is when the guns begin to roar, we are lightweights with little hope to influence global outcomes despite the very real valour and fighting skills of our servicemen.