WPMA on the warpath over ris­ing pro­tec­tion­ism

New Zealand Logger - - Forest Talk -

TIM­BER EX­PORTERS IN THE RE­GIONS are among those feel­ing the ef­fects of in­creas­ing pro­tec­tion­ism, ac­cord­ing to the Wood Pro­ces­sors and Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (WPMA).

The or­gan­i­sa­tion has be­gun a se­ries of vis­its to key wood pro­cess­ing ar­eas around the coun­try to har­ness support for its cam­paign to keep trade doors open.

It re­cently held meetings in Nel­son and North­land, where at­ten­dees were warned that whilst ma­jor tar­iff bar­ri­ers had largely been brought down for wood prod­ucts in a num­ber of mar­kets a “vast wall of non-tar­iff bar­ri­ers have been put up in their place”.

WPMA de­scribes these non-tar­iff bar­ri­ers as “ir­ri­tat­ing and costly pro­ce­dures you have to go through to get prod­ucts into mar­ket”.

It says these can in­clude cus­toms de­lays, li­cence fees, quar­an­tine re­quire­ments, cer­ti­fi­ca­tion fees, la­belling costs, do­mes­tic taxes and much more.

It also be­lieves that many are il­le­gal and could be chal­lenged.

“Ac­cord­ing to the WTO this list just keeps grow­ing .... and don’t we know it!” says Dr Jon Tan­ner, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of the WPMA.

“We told the Gov­ern­ment this back in 2016 and they have re­sponded with a new trade pol­icy called Trade Agenda 2030. This prom­ises to knock down those non-tar­iff bar­ri­ers that are hold­ing busi­ness back. Job done? Partly.

“What WPMA is do­ing now (the fo­cus of our re­gional meetings) is to draw at­ten­tion to the mas­sive sub­si­dies paid over­seas to man­u­fac­tur­ers who com­pete against us. When NZ rightly did away with its man­u­fac­tur­ing sub­si­dies back in the 1980s the rest of the world was to fol­low suit. Guess what: they didn’t! The re­sult is that man­u­fac­tur­ing sub­si­dies are still rife across the world.”

Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter, Nick Smith, who is MP for Nel­son, attended the lo­cal meet­ing and told the au­di­ence the in­dus­try needed to toughen up, get out there and com­pete harder.

“If tough­en­ing up means what I think it does then we need to con­tinue to be­come ever more ef­fi­cient by the day, cut costs fur­ther and in­no­vate to de­liver new prod­ucts and ser­vices,” says Dr Tan­ner.

“Sure, that seems to be the stan­dard NZ rem­edy. How­ever, this is where MBIE’s lat­est statis­tics on the wood sec­tor make in­ter­est­ing read­ing. What we showed in Nel­son and North­land is that the NZ wood and pa­per sec­tor al­ready dis­plays the high­est labour pro­duc­tiv­ity in the land – 17.9% higher than to­tal in­dus­try.

“We are one of the fastest adopters of new tech­nolo­gies. In other words, we are run­ning fast and we’re smart. But are we keep­ing up? The same MBIE fig­ures sug­gest not, with other vi­tal statis­tics for the sec­tor look­ing pretty flat over the past few years.

“Our ar­gu­ment is that we are, in fact, a shin­ing ex­am­ple of a NZ man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try that has/is/con­tin­ues to ‘toughen up’.

“The prob­lem is that our com­pe­ti­tion keeps reach­ing for the ‘pro­tec­tion-en­hanc­ing’ sub­si­dies. World wood trade is not op­er­at­ing in a free mar­ket. We are not ask­ing for sub­si­dies to match our com­peti­tors but we are ask­ing for fairer trad­ing con­di­tions.”

Dr Tan­ner says many of the sub­si­dies are likely to be il­le­gal in the eyes of the WTO and the WPMA is cur­rently test­ing this and will be talk­ing fur­ther to the Trade Min­is­ter about its find­ings.

NZL

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