Peters to oppose FTA with China
20 October 2005
Foreign Minister Winston Peters says he will continue to oppose a free trade agreement with China, although it is government policy to negotiate one.
Mr Peters said being at odds with the policy of the Government he represented would not cause problems with Asian countries.
"My experience of Asian leadership is that their intelligence, their comprehension of Western politics, is far deeper than many of us would admit," he said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"It’s far more knowledgeable and they would be totally understanding of it (his position)."
Mr Peters said that if he was in China he would not make any comment about the Government’s position on a free trade agreement, because that was the responsibility of the trade minister (Phil Goff).
He said his party would maintain its opposition to a free trade agreement because of the wide disparity in the trade balance between China and New Zealand.
"It’s over $2 billion now and it’s likely to worsen. I said on September 7, before the election, that we would not be voting for such an agreement.
"That’s not a position from which we can resile."
Under the agreement New Zealand First negotiated with Labour, Mr Peters is free to criticise the Government in any area except foreign affairs.
Trade, and trade negotiations, are handled by other ministers.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr Peters said he wanted to improve relations with the United States.
The relationship has been strained by New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policies, and Mr Peters said he wanted to put it "on a much more harmonious and positive level".
"It is what I think most New Zealanders would want and our allies would want and the United States would want."
Mr Peters said political leaders could not ignore the popularity of the nuclear-free policy.
The "mass majority" of New Zealanders had expressed their view that the law should not be changed, he said.
Mr Peters said a trade deal with the United States was still possible if the nuclear issue was put aside.
"When you see Morocco being offered a free trade agreement by the US you have to believe that anything’s doable."
The new Cabinet, announced yesterday by Prime Minister Helen Clark, met today for what she called a "general induction" session.
It will hold its first working meeting on Monday.
Mr Peters will not be there, because his appointment is as a minister outside Cabinet.
Miss Clark has said she will work closely with him on foreign affairs, and represent his views in Cabinet when necessary.