New Zealand. In April, New Zealand, as the first industrialized
country, entered into a free trade agreement with China that
would give the country increased access to one of the
world's fastest-growing markets. Under the agreement, New Zealand
will gradually abolish its import duties on goods from China
until 2016. During the same period, China will reduce its
duties on New Zealand goods from today's 10-20 percent to 4
percent. In 2008, China was N's third largest trading
partner and exports there increased. According to the
Minister of Defense and Trade, the value of China's exports
would increase from 2 billion New Zealand dollars per year
to 2.4 billion thanks to the Free Trade Agreement.
Countryaah reports, the government wrote on June 25 about the ownership of
nine forests (176,000 hectares) on the North Island on seven
Moorish groups. The forests, which mostly consist of
commercial pine plantations, would be managed collectively
by the 100,000 Maoris. The plantations now provide the Maori
with rental income of about 13 million New Zealand dollars a
year and they would also receive the lease fees that had
accumulated since 1989.
This was the largest single agreement to date between the
Maoris and the government, which in recent years has begun
to compensate the indigenous peoples for the land they are
entitled to under the Waitangi Treaty of 1840, but which in
most cases they lost. Hundreds of Maori witnessed the
contract signing in the House of Representatives. Prime
Minister Helen Clark said N. is on a "historic journey [...]
to deal with injustice and seek reconciliation."
Foreign Minister Winston Peters resigned on 29 August on
suspicion of misappropriation of donations to his party, New
Zealand's first party (NZF). He left his post before the
results of the financial crime investigation launched
against him were presented. Prime Minister Clark himself
took over Peter's duties until the parliamentary elections,
which she announced would be held November 8.
The economy became the most important issue during the
election campaign. N. had entered a recession with rising
unemployment. Both the ruling Labor and the Nationalist
Party promised tax cuts and investments in infrastructure.
Just as opinion polls had eluded, the Nationalist Party
won and took power after nine years with Labor. New Prime
Minister John Key, a wealthy banker who was elected to
Parliament as late as 2002 and who has been the leader of
the Nationalist Party since 2006. With 45 percent of the
vote and 59 seats, the Nationalist Party almost succeeded in
getting its own majority in parliament. When John Key took
office a week after the election, he was supported by the
bourgeois small parties ACT New Zealand and the Common
Future (United Future) and was thus able to drive the
Nationalist Party's policies.
Labor received only 34 percent of the vote. After the
election, Labor leader Helen Clark, who since 2005 led a
minority government, announced her departure as party leader
after 15 years. The turnout was just under 79 percent.