Peters goes outside his own Ministry for advice

:  Vangelis Vitalis; Deputy Secretary, Trade and Economic, MFAT
 

Foreign Minister Winston Peters says he has alternative advice that he trusts which would allow some sort of charge to be imposed on bottled water exports without endangering New Zealand’s trade agreements.

This is despite his own Ministry saying such a tax was incompatible with some of our trade agreements.

"We are not in a position to apply an export tax on water as a consequence of some of our existing free trade agreements," Vangelis Vitalis, Deputy Secretary, Trade and Economic at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee yesterday.

 He said a royalty could run up against the free trade agreement with China and the recently-negotiated Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

But Peters seized on Vangelis’s use of the word “could”. He did not say “would”, Peters argued

“And you would need a serious legal opinion on that before you would make that statement with certainty,” he told POLITIK last night.

“It comes down to a question of sovereignty, and there are many ways to deal with this issue.

“It’s not just a straight royalties issue.”

When he asked whether he able to say what the alternatives might be, the reply was typical peters.

“Am I able to – yes. Am I going to – no.”

He said that he had not had any had any advice from MFAT suggesting alternative methods of collecting a royalty.

“But have I had alternative advice, yes.

“From someone whom I trust.”

However, in Parliament Peters claimed that the Government had alternative advice.

“The Government's position is that there are many alternatives to arrive at the kind of result that a royalty would impose upon any taker of water,” he said during Question Time.

“One could assume that, like every other sovereign nation and every country that sets its own royalties, we're working precisely on that as we speak.”

It is, of course, entirely possible that the Government does have its own advice from other officials on how to apply a royalty  since the issue is not directly within Peters’ Ministerial responsibilities.

It actually lies with David Parker wearing his two hats of Environment and Trade Minister.

And he was suggesting yesterday that the Resource Management Act might offer a route through the problem.

But the day before he was asked during his press conference on overseas land sales whether there would be any controls on bottled water exports, and he simply replied; "No."

“The coalition agreement has a provision that we are going to charge them a royalty for thee export of bottled water,” he said.

Meanwhile, Naitonal’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Gerry Brownlee, has proposed that New Zealand set up a water quality brand which exporters would pay to use.

He believes widespread industry agreement might be possible for such a proposal.

“They’d be far better off to engage with water exporters and come up with a workable commercial scheme and recognise the longevity of that as a very good job producer for New Zealand,” he said.

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