6 Mar 2018

NZ farmers nervous about trade war

10:01 am on 6 March 2018

New Zealand's farmers are nervous about getting caught up in a potential trade war.

US President Donald Trump speaks on steel and aluminum tariffs during a meeting with industry leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House.

US President Donald Trump is imposing tariffs which could lead to a trade war. Photo: AFP

American plans to impose punitive tariffs on steel and aluminium imports have prompted China and the European Union to warn that doing so would damage economies globally, including that of the United States.

The special agricultural trade envoy, Mike Petersen, said the fear is that the rhetoric could easily escalate into a series of retaliatory strikes.

New Zealand produces enough food for about 40 million people, but with only 4.8 million people, it exports about 90 percent of what is produced.

"Anything that's happening in international markets with regards to imports or tariffs are very threatening for New Zealand's exporting sector," he said.

Mr Petersen said the agricultural sectors in the US and Europe have enormous political clout, and New Zealand's biggest export sectors such as dairy and meat could end up facing crippling barriers.

"You don't have to draw to long a bow to look at the parallels that might happen with the dairy industry if the EU and US start to retaliate against each other," he said.

"Most the of them have large dairy industries and could easily spill into that area. That would be a significant cost to New Zealand."

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