Peters on Commonwealth and EU trade

While Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters has been largely overshadowed by Jacinda Ardern as both visit Europe and the United Kingdom, he has been reported commenting on trade agreement possibilities.

Stuff: Winston Peters says Commonwealth countries open to multilateral trade deal

The bones of a Commonwealth free trade deal have been laid out and the EU is also turning an eye to the Pacific, says Foreign Minister Winston Peters.

He made the comments at the back end of a tour where he visited UK and EU leaders before meeting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in London to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

“There’s a whole lot of excitement about that and how we might again, put some flesh to an idea. It was [non-existent] two years ago, but since the 23 June, 2016 it’s become real.  That was very exciting. And a whole lot of countries, without saying too much about it realise there’s something very exciting and new about this.”

Peters said there was a hope that the foundations could be laid for a multilateral agreement within the Commonwealth countries, before the UK had left the European Union.

“And it was thrilling to get that sort of acceptance that we needed to talk more and do things far more often.

It is early days for all of these trade initiatives. The UK can’t do anything until they have sorted Brexit out, and while Germany and France have stated support for an EU agreement that has to be negotiated and approved by all member countries.

At least it gives Peters something to work on now that his Russian trade aims have been taken off the Government table.

“For decades we’ve seen enormous cynicism about the Commonwealth, don’t forget it started with eight countries. That’s a long time ago and it’s 53 now, possible 54 if the Maldives comes back. And that fact is that things have dramatically changed.”

He said the rest of the world “needs the Commonwealth” and the Commonwealth needed New Zealand to be a voice within it.

“It needs a country called New Zealand to show its kind of values that could be seriously important towards the economic security of the Pacific and indeed the world we live in.”

The world doesn’t need the Commonwealth. And the Commonwealth doesn’t need New Zealand – I’m sure it would manage to continue as a largely irrelevant grouping of countries without us.

But it does provide a chance to meet leaders from a bunch of countries every now and then, and to try to get things moving on trade deals. And we get to gather to do some sports every four years.


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  April 21, 2018

    No, I’m going to give Winston his due and say all this is sensible stuff. Absolutely the Commonwealth should be greasing the way for a free trade agreement with the UK post-Brexit. It’s a big deal for us and also for the UK in their negotiations with the EU. It also sets a bar for the US and for the TPP nations. The UK has always been an important investor for NZ and a counter balance now for Asian investors here so keeping those ties strong is an important associated benefit.

    • Gezza

       /  April 21, 2018

      Agreed. Winston was over in London waving his paw around pre-Brexit, telling them to remember the dominions. And I’m personally in favour of remaining in the Commonwealth. Countries are in the CW by choice. They’re a diverse group. I think it’s to the benefit of all members to have these regular opportunities to mix & mingle & keep up useful personal, political, trade & diplomatic contacts.

  2. Peters hasn’t given up on Russia:

    Foreign Minister says the end goal is to bring Russia and North Korea to the table, but it’s a way off.–for-now