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Labour Standards In Trade Agreements Impractical

More debate is needed on the Government's framework on labour standards in trade agreements, says the Executive Director of Business New Zealand, Anne Knowles.

The Government yesterday released a framework under which it will seek to influence labour standards in countries negotiating trade agreements with New Zealand.

Ms Knowles said the idea was impractical.

"Labour standards in different countries evolve according to local conditions, and are the results of trade-offs in areas like access to capital, industry regulation, social security and so on. No two countries have the same 'mix'.

"Seeking to impose the NZ Government's views about that 'mix' on countries with whom we are seeking trade agreements will make the process of negotiating trade agreements complex and expensive. "And what if that trade partner breached the labour standards in question? Would we then stop trading with them? It would certainly make trade agreements less solid and certain.

"It's the job of the International Labour Organisation, of which New Zealand is a member, to establish labour standards and deal appropriately with any breaches, and there is no point in duplicating that role.

"In essence, the thing most likely to help workers in other countries is free trade itself. Bundling labour issues into trade talks just makes trade agreements less likely to happen," Ms Knowles said.


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