Morning Briefing June 17: Govt chooses 'quality over speed' in FTA talks

The Trade Minister says much work still needs to be done on a potential agreement with the UK, Sydney is on edge following two new Covid cases, and Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden finally meet.

Damien O'Connor. Source: Getty

Trade Minister Damien O'Connor says there's still much work to be done on a potential free trade agreement with the UK.

He’s currently in London working on the deal, which he says should be completed by the end of the year. It comes as Australia revealed details of their own post-Brexit deal earlier this week.

National's trade spokesperson Todd Muller says the Government has been slow to act on the UK deal, however Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says they want “quality over speed”

"Rushing an agreement, simply to get it over the line, isn't in the best interests of our exporters and primary producers," she says. 

British High Commissioner Laura Clarke told TVNZ’s Breakfast yesterday that New Zealand should expect a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom "absolutely within the year".

The UK Government has estimated such an agreement would increase New Zealand’s GDP by $975 million.

New Zealand’s latest GDP figures are due for release today and will reveal whether the country is entering a recession. 

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Bubble decision due

A decision on resuming quarantine-free travel with Victoria is expected some time today.

The state recorded several new community cases of Covid-19 yesterday, however restrictions there are still set to be eased, with outdoor gatherings expanded to 20 people, and gyms and indoor entertainment venues allowed to open again.

But as Victoria looks to step further out of its latest lockdown, New South Wales officials are trying to pinpoint the source of infection for a new community Covid case reported in eastern Sydney yesterday.

A household contact of that case has also now tested positive for the virus and further locations of interest have been identified. 

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Covid response has been focusing on the ongoing vaccine rollout and how to move forward with the reopening of borders.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says Government officials are preparing advice around the borders, adding that vaccination status may be a factor for travellers.

And Jacinda Ardern is due to reveal further details about New Zealand’s wider vaccine rollout later today, with Aotearoa now last among OECD nations for Covid vaccination rates. 

Biden and Putin finally meet

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described talks with his US counterpart Joe Biden as “constructive”.

Putin says there was “no hostility” during the pair’s two-hour talks overnight, where they agreed to return ambassadors to their respective posts.

The two countries have also agreed in principle to begin consultations on cybersecurity issues, although Putin still denies the Russian Government is behind a recent spate of high-profile hacks. 

CBD plans concern retailers

Wellington retailers are worried plans to bar private vehicles from the city’s CBD Golden Mile will eventually force them to close.

The city’s transport programme, Let’s Get Wellington Moving, has confirmed its plans to ban vehicles and widen footpaths as it “transforms” Lambton Quay to the end of Courtenay Place. Almost every side street leading to the Golden Mile will also be pedestrianised. 

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster says the proposal will support aspirations of having people move around efficiently on foot, bike or public transport, however businesses in the area say there is no information as to how they will be impacted.

Retail NZ says the move is especially disappointing news for already struggling retailers. 

Investor crackdown continues

More tools will soon be available to the Reserve Bank as it works with the Government to hammer the red-hot housing market.

The Finance Minister has agreed to allow the central bank to introduce “debt serviceability” restrictions to its toolkit, with debt to income limits the preferred option.

The limits will sit alongside the current loan to value restrictions, which may yet be tightened in the coming months.

Other news of note this morning: 

- Fiji is struggling to control its escalating Covid crisis with another new record of daily cases - many of them medical personnel. 

- Muslim women say they don’t trust authorities to keep them safe, the Government’s counter-terrorism hui in Christchurch has heard.

- Jacinda Ardern says the Government put their "best foot forward" in their bid to host the next America's Cup after Team NZ confirmed they've rejected the offer.

- Mental health advocate Mike King broke down in tears as he gave a speech to supporters before returning his New Zealand Order of Merit medal at Parliament yesterday.

- A growing number of drivers don’t know what to do when they hear sirens behind them and it’s putting lives at risk, emergency services say. 

- Last month’s Canterbury floods have left one of the region's ski fields scrambling to be ready to open

- The NZ Herald reports Auckland DHB hospitals have collected more than $31 million in car parking fees over the past three years.

- And video has emerged of a massive huntsman spider giving those onboard a small plane a big fright as they came into land at a Northern Territory airstrip this week. Just... no.

And finally...

Cristiano Ronaldo had quite the time at the Euro Championships yesterday – firstly, setting the record for most career goals at the tournament, and secondly, apparently wiping billions of dollars off Coca-Cola’s market value.

When the Portugal captain clocked two bottles of Coke sitting in front of him at a press conference, he removed them before shouting “Agua!” as he held a bottle of water aloft.

It may all just be a coincidence, but the Guardian reports Coca-Cola’s market value fell by a casual $4 billion shortly after the snub.