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Import News: Deborah Coddington and Chris Trotter

Import News from the Importers Institute of New Zealand
24 November 2003 - Conference Speeches

The Importers Institute had its annual conference last week. We heard speeches from two first-rate thinkers, Deborah Coddington and Chris Trotter.

We asked political commentator Chris Trotter this question: "A century ago, the Left was internationalist. When did it turn protectionist and why?" His speech opened with a rousing rendition of the Internationale and closed with a poem by James K Baxter. Excerpt:

"In their latest newsletter, Bill Andersen's National Distribution Union, describes how one of their officials, Paul Watson, warned delegates to the recent Labour Party Conference in Christchurch, that "New Zealand workers cannot compete against cheap Third World exports". Cutting tariffs, said Watson, will see many clothing and textile sites "cut jobs". Machinists jobs are "valuable and worth saving", he declared - before demanding that the Labour Party "put people before the interests of multi-nationals".

"How small the dreams of the Left have become, and how narrow their vision. Has socialism really degenerated to a demand that working people pay more for the shirts on their backs so that the jobs of a handful of their number can be protected forever? Are these "the new foundations" upon which "the wretched of the earth" are supposed to stand? What passes now for the Left lacks any strategy but a mindless hostility to change." Full speech at

* * *

ACT MP Deborah Coddington said in her maiden speech, "For one brief moment in time, at the end of the 1980s, the world looked to New Zealand as an example of greater economic freedom. Since then we've gone to sleep and allowed our country to wallow in complacency." Deborah first addressed the Importers Institute in 1997 and last week we invited her back. Excerpts:

"Free trade tests the mettle of governments, especially a government that derives much of its financial and voter support from the trade unions. The benefits of zero tariffs are spread throughout the community, while job losses blamed on tariff cuts and free trade, such as in the motor vehicle assembly business, make great emotional television.

"But latterly the argument against tariffs has changed its nature. It's a bit like the way old socialists have slid into the environmental movement: it sounds much more acceptable to pronounce that you're caring for the environment than stating that you are opposed to property rights. In much the same way, old-fashioned protectionism aimed at preserving the jobs of union members has become a nebulous slogan: "fair trade not free trade".

"What does this mean? Think anti-globalisation - or, as the Economist put it, "Clueless in Seattle". Full speech at

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