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.


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