This is getting boring.
It goes like this:
Paula Bennett has tyre marks all over her. Todd McClay is the latest one to develop visible tread marks.
The approach is appropriate. National clearly understands that Brand Key is the one thing which may save them next election. And he has to be protected and the others are all expendable.
Speaking shortly after his arrival in Indonesia for a three-day trade trip, Key sought to pour cold water on the idea of any Chinese retaliation.
While he could not confirm whether MBIE had received a complaint about steel dumping, due to the confidentiality of the complaints regime, the Government had received “no indications” of Chinese concerns about possible anti-dumping duties, or potential retribution.
“Even if there was a complaint, and even if it was investigated, whether a country like China would take retaliatory action against New Zealand, I don’t believe that’s the case that they would.
“There’ll be lots and lots of ways of them looking to resolve issues if there were any, but it wouldn’t be through the sort of things that we’ve seen reported.”
Key said there was no “substantiated source” confirming that China would take action against New Zealand exports, only speculation.
In a major backdown, the Government confirms it was told a Chinese industry body had approached a New Zealand exporter, venting anger over a complaint against alleged steel dumping practices.
But Trade Minister Todd McClay says Mofcom – China’s trade ministry equivalent – has denied any knowledge that an approach occurred.
His comments come after government insistence that claims of trade reprisals from a steel dumping complaint against China imports were unfounded.
That was despite trade officials being warned about Chinese anger by a key exporter, Zespri.
And now this. An apology from McClay for apparently forcing Key to tell fibs.
McClay has released a statement saying this:
Trade Minister Todd McClay has today reiterated that the Government has sought and received assurances from the Chinese Government that any competition issues would not impact on trade between the two countries.
Mr McClay is responding to reports that retaliatory action could be imposed if an investigation is launched into allegations of steel dumping.
“On my return from Indonesia I asked my office for a full review of the broader issues around this matter.
“I want to make it clear today that there have been discussions and limited correspondence over the past few months as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has endeavoured to assess the veracity of these reports.
“I remain limited in what I can say as there are legislative constraints around the reporting of competition complaints that are not yet under investigation. These remain confidential until such time as any investigation is launched and publicly notified.
“Having said that, at the time I should have requested a more thorough briefing before I responded to questions on this issue.
“I have apologised to the Prime Minister for not being able to provide more details at the time.
Of course China would say there would be no trade repercussions to New Zealand raising trade issues about steel dumping. Can you imagine them saying anything elsewhere ?
Radio New Zealand has this synopsis of what McClay has been saying:
While in Indonesia last week, Mr McClay initially said there was no hard proof of any trade spat with China and the story of Chinese officials threatening kiwifruit, dairy and wool exporters was “extremely hypothetical”.
A few days later, Mr McClay said he remembered he had been personally briefed on the matter by his ministry the week before when he was in China.
Now, in a written statement released on Monday, he said ministry officials had been dealing with the matter for the past few months.
“I want to make it clear today that there have been discussions and limited correspondence over the past few months as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has endeavoured to assess the veracity of these reports,” his statement said.
So we have gone from there being no hard proof of any trade spat and an extremely hypothetical story to McClay recalls being personally briefed to officials have been dealing with the matter for the past few months to now officials have been dealing with the issue for the past few months and he is limited in what he can say because there is an investigation under way.
Key has criticised McClay for dancing on the head of a pin in saying that the only contact had been between a non Chinese Government entity and Zespri. I think the criticism should be vicariously applied to this Government because this sort of event seems to happen all the time.
And there is this weird article where the DPMC suggests that it had not informed Key or his office about the complaint even thought a trade war with China because of sub standard steel is as about as bad as you can imagine.
Lets get real here. The dumping of sub standard steel in New Zealand by China potentially in breach of WTO requirements, the threat to major transport infrastructure posed by said steel, MFAT investigations and a Minister that says there is no problem, then says that there is a problem but it is under control then apologises for misleading the Prime Minister and he cannot say anything further because of the WTO investigation and we are meant to believe that no one thought to tell Key about what was going on.
Andrew Little is right. This Government has this pattern of behaviour where a string of tricky denials is made when confronted with potentially damaging issues. McClay should be sacked as a Minister. And exactly what Key was told and when needs to be investigated further.