ASEAN FTA opens market of 500m

February 28, 2009

Trade Minister Tim Groser has signed a Free Trade Agreement with 10 Asian nations.

They are Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia and these 10 members of ASEAN – Association of South East Asian Nations – have a total population of more than 500 million which is a big market for New Zealand produce.

While applauding this I do wonder about the time, effort and expense involved in these sorts of agreements when the greater good would be better served by world-wide free trade.

Given the slow progress of the WTO I realise that it’s important to keep working on these smaller deals which may well be stepping stones to the big goal of full free and fair trade.

That will only come when all the protectionist barriers are dismantled so all countries open their borders to allow trade with all other countries. If there’s a silver lining to the GFC it might just be that more countries find they can no longer afford subsidies and other anti-competitive measures.


Saturday smiles

February 28, 2009

A ventriloquist is touring the country doing shows in clubs and pubs.

 

He’s going through the usual run of off-colour and dumb blonde jokes when a well dressed, beautifully spoken blonde woman stands up and shots, “I’ve heard more than enough of your dumb-blonde jokes, you jerk!

 

“What makes you think you can stereotype women this way? What connection can a woman’s hair colour possibly have with her fundamental worth as a human being?

 

“It’s morons like you who prevent women like me from being respected at work and in our communities and from reaching our full potential, because you and your Neanderthal brethren continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes of not only blondes but women in general for the sake of cheap laughs.

 

“You are a pathetic misogynistic relic of the past, and what you do is not only contrary to discrimination laws in every civilised country, it’s deeply offensive to people of modern sensibilities and basic respect for their fellow human beings.

 

“You should hang your head in shame you pusillanimous little maggot.”

 

The ventriloquist hangs his head in shame and begins to stutter out an apology when the blonde interrupts him:

 

“You stay out of this, mister, I’m talking to the cheeky little sod on your knee.”

 

Hat Tip: the weekly Ag-letter from Baker & Associates.


Pedal power

February 28, 2009

A dedicated cycleway the length of the nation is a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal – but it’s one appeals to me.

Cycling is popular but few of our roads are designed to enable cyclists and motor vehicles to share them safely so getting the bikes away from the roads would be better for bikers and motorists.

I’ll be even more enthusiastic about the cycle way if it doesn’t stick too closely to the route followed by the main road but meanders away from the highway between cities to some of the small town and rural byways.

Following the main road doesn’t always give the best scenery – the coastal route which the railway takes from Oamaru to Dunedin is far more attractive than much of State Highway 1 – and as trains don’t usually go up very steep hills it might be easier pedalling too.

The main road north from Oamaru to Christchurch is pretty boring, but a cycle route up the Waitaki Valley, through the Mackenzie Country to Geraldine would take in some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Then it could take the inland route from Geraldine through the Rakaia Gorge, by-passing the monotony of the Canterbury Plains.

Busted Blonde notes the micro-economy which has blossomed along the Central Otago rail trail. It’s created business opportunities in the provision of food and accommodation – raising the standard of both for the benefit of tourists and locals – and the benefits aren’t confined to businesses on or close to the trail.  Most cyclists visit other places on the way to and from the trail and leave some of their money behind.

I am very wary about the government picking winners by propping up private businesses and aware of the risks of using public money for make-work schemes.

If taxpayers’ money is to be used for economic development it must be for projects which will have endure and propser in the long term and I think a cycle way could do that.

It ticks the boxes for a tourist attraction which is clean, green and has health benefits too. And if public money goes in to the infrastructure it will provide opportunities for private investment in the provision of food, accomdation and other goods and services along the way.

It might be a BHAG but I think it’s one that could work.


Don’t panic

February 27, 2009

 The creation of non-jobs and anything which hints at protectionism  are to be avoided at all costs, Don Nicolson says in Federated Farmers ‘ submission to the job summit.

New Zealand is the poster country for being an open dynamic economy. If any company or organisation proposes protectionist measures, we farmers will tell them to go and read some history books.

(Anyone sqwaking about Sawzi losing the Defence Department contract  please take note and if you don’t understand why, read what Macdoctor  and Poneke have to say about the issue.)
More good advice from Feds:
 “A key part of what Federated Farmers recommends is not to panic.

“We are still selling goods overseas and are now seeing some price stabilisation. We’re actually pretty upbeat about New Zealand’s economic prospects as there’s no direct protein in a silicon chip. Everyone needs food.

 Yet again the importance of agriculture in our economy should be a good thing. People still have to eat and we are very good at producing more food than we need ourselves. People in the overseas markets we sell to might have to give up luxuries but they will still have to eat. 

“Some gentle steps rather than a series of knockout schemes must be the starting point. This is an argument for treading gently and not thinking big.

If there is one good thing about the deficits we’re facing as a country it’s that we can’t afford to think big.

Feds’ submission made four main points:

1. Don’t trip up the economy and cost more jobs by including agriculture in the Emisisons Trading Scheme.

Agriculture should never have been included in our Kyoto commitment and including it in our ETS would cripple the economy while doing nothing for the environment.

2. Include water storeage in the infrastructure package.

For each 1000ha irrigated, the Ministry of Economic Development’s study of the Opuha Dam near Fairlie in South Canterbury, confirmed that some $7.7 million is injected into the local community, 30 jobs were created and household incomes boosted by $1.2 million.

We have seen similar gains from irrigation in North Otago with economic, social and environmental gains.

Feds includes tree planting on marginal land and rural broadband under infrastructure.

It would be difficult to argue against planting trees and I second  PM of NZ  and Farmgirl with their complaints abour rural internet service.

3. Improving skills and getting people into agriculture.

One of the eye openers about dairying is the poor literacy and numeracy of so many job applicants.

4. Concentrate R&D funding on agriculture.

When money is scarce it should be directed at areas of natural advantage and our biggest one is agriculture.

If nothing more than these points are acted on as a result of today’s job summit it will have been very worthwhile.


Which is the oldest?

February 27, 2009

The annual North Otago A&P show starts today.

Like many others it went backwards in the wake of the 1980s ag-sag but in recent years exhibitor and visitor numbers have improved, due in part to a change of date from November to February.

The two-day event retains the best of the old attractions – stock judging, horse jumping,  pet lamb and calf contests and dog trials.

I’ve never been tempted to enter the home industries competition but do admire the skill of those who produce light as air sponges and intricate hand crafts.

This year new attractions include sheep racing, a jelly bean spitting competition and the full throttle motor bike spectacular.

This is North Otago’s 144th show which makes it the second oldest in the country, I don’t know which is the oldest so  if you do, please tell me.


Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

February 27, 2009

Sunday is St David’s Day which made the choice of a Welsh poet the logical choice for this Friday’s poem.

That of course led me to  Dylan Thomas  and the only one of his works I could find in any of my poetry books was Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.

It was Owen Marshall’s choice in Dear to Me 100 New Zealander write about their favourite poems, published by Random House  as a fund raising project by Amnesty International.

Writing about his choice, Marshall said he’d have preferred his favourite :

wasn’t as conventionally popular as this . . . nevertheless I cannot deny the power I find in this poem. that emotional power, and the theme which it drives, are almost entire within the first three-line stanza. And what a stroke of genius to use the adjective, gentle, rather than the expected adverb.

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

 

Do not go gentle into that good night

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

                –      Dylan Thomas    -


Spot the PR troll

February 27, 2009

The NBR story headlined Red faces at PGG Wrightson media briefing  attracted a long comment from Bob who was obviously less than impressed.

It’s followed by these two comments from Anonymous:

Bob, you’re a poor listener.

Bob, you’re a poor listener. The answers on the SFF deal finance were actually very good and credible. Have you heard of the global financial crisis, by the way? Or are you living on Mars? Your reply betrays you as a victim of the current panic, eager to dish out cheap criticism without considering the facts.

and

And also… do you think

And also… do you think that if a crucial refinancing was nearing completion at a time of turmoil in the banking sector a person like Norgate would talk freely about it before it was completely signed up. You’re not only a poor listener, you’re commercially ignorant.

Call me cynical if you like but I suspect Anonymous is part of the company’s PR team.


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