“Collecting tariffs is costing Kiwis around $2.5 million a year, we should just embrace free trade and reap the benefits,” says ACT Deputy Leader and Trade spokesperson Brooke van Velden.

“Written Parliamentary Questions (WPQs) released to ACT show that since 2020 New Zealand has spent approximately $5 million on the process of collecting tariffs alone.

“We’re paying to collect tariffs which increase costs for everyday New Zealanders, it just doesn’t make sense. Tariffs:

• Directly increase the price of imports we purchase. Our estimates suggest that tariffs could increase the cost of a school uniform for an average New Zealand child by more than $20

• Reduce competition in New Zealand, allowing domestic producers to charge higher prices

• Impose a compliance burden on importers, which delays and increases the cost of importing products into New Zealand.

“The New Zealand Government levies $195 million of tariffs (taxes) on products New Zealanders purchase from abroad. Clothing, makeup, chocolate biscuits, chardonnay, railway locomotives, and ambulances are some of the many products still subject to tariffs.

“ACT is proposing that New Zealand unilaterally abolishes all remaining tariffs to ease the cost-of-living crisis, boost productivity and growth, and show global leadership on free trade.

“Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Damien O’Connor even told ACT through WPQs his preference is to reduce tariffs. He should show some political will and unilaterally abolish them.

“In the long run, it will drive our producers to become more productive and competitive on the international stage as well. Just look at our world-leading agriculture industry. Abolishing agricultural tariffs in the 1990s helped our farmers develop products that the rest of the world desires because of their quality alone.

“The reality is that tariff levels barely factor into our FTA negotiations now. They no longer apply to most agricultural products anyway, and the rest of our market is small enough that offering the carrot of reduced tariffs is unlikely to make an impact. Singapore is a shining example of this, unilaterally abolishing tariffs and becoming an archetype of free trade.

“New Zealand has preached the gospel of free trade on the international stage since the 1980s. It is time to practice what we preach and unilaterally abolish New Zealand’s remaining tariffs. It will save Kiwi families almost $200 million, while making our economy more efficient and productive.”

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Brooke van Velden