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CTU critical of Hong Kong WTO deal

19 December 2005

CTU critical of Hong Kong WTO deal

The Council of Trade Unions is critical of the lack of progress made in the latest World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting, which concluded in Hong Kong over the weekend.

"These talks were clearly aimed at making only a few modest steps while trying to convince everyone that it is really now a development round," said CTU Economist Peter Conway, who was at the Hong Kong meetings.

"While progress was good on key issues such as an end date for export subsidies, tariff and duty free access for least developed countries, aid for trade, and cotton, the talks fell a long way short of any real progress on market access in agriculture or the much bigger levels of domestic subsidies," said Peter Conway.

"It was also a real disappointment that there was no progress at all in addressing union issues such as decent work, employment effects of trade liberalisation and reference to labour standards," said Peter Conway. "The CTU would like to see the Government play a more prominent role in the ongoing negotiations on these issues as well as demonstrate that our commitment to genuine development for developing countries goes beyond agriculture, and also extends to ensuring that these countries do not pay a heavy price in liberalising their services and industrial sectors in order to make gains in agriculture," said Peter Conway.

In non-agricultural market access in areas such as clothing import tariffs, Peter Conway said the negotiations for a free trade deal with China poses a much more significant threat to New Zealand than the text agreed in Hong Kong in this WTO round.

"However in services, it has been obvious that there are a number of countries pushing the pace on services liberalisation," said Peter Conway. "New Zealand has attempted to establish a group around export education which is a major concern. This would risk education services featuring more prominently in future services negotiations."

Peter Conway said that the Government guidelines on services negotiations could be seriously tested next year as the "GATS" negotiations unfold.

In Hong Kong, unions worked alongside many developing countries and Non Governmental Organisations to roll back some of the worst parts of the text on services. Peter Conway said that unions participated in protest marches as well as lobbying inside the conference.


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