CER: Discussions with Doug Anthony and John Howard
I was encouraged by the discussion I was able to have this morning with Doug Anthony, and John Howard. Although Doug did most of the talking, the fact that John Howard was present was also of some significance.
- There can be no doubting Doug Anthony's on-going commitment to the CER concept. He agrees that if we don't get a CER now, then both countries will lose. Furthermore he is also strongly of the view that we must keep the pressure on to complete the package now rather than later, otherwise both Governments run the risk of seeing their constituents tum back on the exercise. He also sees it as vital for NZ to make most of the running; no initiatives will come from Australia, as they have too many other preoccupations. In this context he welcomed my visit and the work I have been able to do in focussing people's minds on the matter over here. In Doug's view, if we are to keep up with the timetable (of introduction 1 January 1983) then it is essential to make some early progress on Australia's two main outstanding problems-import licensing and export incentives.
- On import licensing he reverses our line of argument by saying that as, under the formula, licensing on Australia won't mean too much by 1990, we should have no difficulty in setting a terminal date now. I presented the line that the review after five years would be the key date in deciding whether a terminal date needs to be set, and if so what it should be. Anthony said Australia needed to be shown that NZ was willing to set a terminal date, and that this issue would be a sticking point with their Prime Minister (as indeed it turned out to be-see my separate message).
- On export incentives the message was that a positive phasing out or harmonisation process needs to be set now, and that this should provide for earlier progress on export incentives on horticultural products. This latter element would help him a great deal with the Tasmanians.
- I rehearsed our arguments on both these issues, and we agreed that they, and probably dairy products, were the most likely issues to be left over for settlement at political meeting.
- Other issues we touched on included safeguards (okay to have them, but they must not be too all-embracing-presumably a reference to our wish to include import licensing within the safeguards arrangements.), Government purchasing (the Federal Government would continue to do what they could to help us on this, but it might not be much), and whiteware (a solution is foreseeable, there being only narrow differences remaining between the two sides).
- We also discussed the on-going timetable, and canvassed the possibility of Doug Anthony coming to NZ the week after the Permanent Heads meet (ie in week beginning 19 April). I undertook to check that timing with you. He will decide in the light of next week's Cabinet discussions.
- The other matter was that of how much publicity should be given to the draft Heads of Agreement1 and when. There seemed to be a consensus between us that the DHOA should be published as soon after the Permanent Heads meeting as possible. An important point was that at that point there should be no square brackets or the like in the text, lest they be given the wrong emphasis in the media.
- All in all this was an encouraging meeting which presaged a favourable outcome for the discussions by the Australian Cabinet next week. If that indeed turns out to be so, we now need to refine our negotiating positions on Australia's two main areas of concern, import licensing and export incentives, in the near future. While Permanent Heads may not be able to resolve these and the few other 'stand-out' problems (eg dairy) the negotiating parameters do now need to be much more tightly drawn.
[ABHS 950/Box 1228, 40/4/2 Part 2 Archives New Zealandffe Whare Tohu Tuhituhinga 0 Aotearoa, Head Office, Wellington]