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Christchurch City Applauded For WTO Position

Christchurch City Council Applauded For Position on WTO

GATT WATCHDOG

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

4/10/99

Christchurch City Council Applauded For Position on WTO

GATT Watchdog has applauded the Christchurch City Council for the stand it has taken in the Council's submission to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the upcoming World Trade Organisation talks, scheduled to start in Christchurch's sister city, Seattle, in November.

"It is to the Council's credit that it appreciates the implications of multilateral trade and investment negotiations for local authorities, and questions the lack of genuine consultation between Wellington, local government and the public on these matters," says GATT Watchdog spokesman, Aziz Choudry.

"With pressure coming on from some countries to start up a Millennium Round of trade negotiations drawing in new issues to the WTO, it is good to see the City Council seeking a moratorium on the introduction of further issues until there has been a review and assessment of existing agreements. A number of countries in the Third World, as well as many non-governmental organisations and people's movements are totally opposed to any new issues being introduced."

"More and more people, locally and internationally, are opposing the trade and investment liberalisation agenda which the WTO promotes as it leads to a global race to the bottom in wages, conditions and environmental protection as countries compete to attract investment and export goods and services, and a growing gap between rich and poor."

The Christchurch and Seattle City Councils both moved resolutions highly critical of the draft Multilateral Agreement on Investment in April 1998, before talks on the MAI at the 29-member OECD stalled last October. Seattle declared itself an "MAI-free zone". Christchurch criticised the government's lack of consultation with local government on the MAI, calling for any signing to be deferred pending genuine consultation and sought to protect its current and further position in areas of social, environmental and economic policy by exempting local government from the MAI.

The Council's WTO submission is consistent with its recommendation on the MAI: "[t]hat a watching brief be kept on the implications of the effects of the MAI or similar projects on NZ and Christchurch City."


Former Waimakariri MP, and newly-appointed Director General of the 135-member World Trade Organisation, Mike Moore, visited Seattle on Friday in a "warm-up" for November's WTO Ministerial Meeting. Several Seattle journalists have been in contact with GATT Watchdog in the past few days seeking insights into Mike Moore's political and economic views.

"It is ironic that the local authorities in Mr Moore's home city and in Seattle have taken critical stands against the MAI, in contrast to Mike Moore's evangelical endorsement of what was essentially a bill of rights and freedoms for the corporations which dominate the global economy. With the strong possibility that attempts will be made to begin negotiations on a similar "multilateral framework for investment" within the WTO at the November Ministerial, this is particularly noteworthy"

"GATT Watchdog is pleased that the Council opposes any attempt to negotiate an investment agreement in the WTO and that it has called on the Government to reject any such proposal."


"Successive New Zealand governments have failed to consult local authorities - let alone the public - about the WTO and MAI, even as they move to make binding commitments at international forums which have implications for the capacity of local government to pass regulations within their jurisdiction."


Copy of CCC Submission on WTO attached

For further comment, contact Aziz Choudry, ph (03) 3662803 or 025 2094538

CHRISTCHURCH CITY COUNCIL'S SUBMISSION ON MULTILATERAL TRADE NEGOTIATIONS

The Christchurch City Council makes the following submission to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade regarding the forthcoming multilateral trade negotiations:

1. Council's Support for Overseas Investment and Trade. The Council reaffirms its commitment to the encouragement of trade and investment that is consistent with the Council's broader social, environmental and economic development policies.

2. Desirability of Transparent Rules. The Council agrees that it is desirable to develop clear rules to help guide international trade.

3. Retention of Council's Jurisdiction. The Council considers it essential that it retains the ability to regulate within its jurisdiction, decide how to spend its procurement funds, support local economic development and employment, protect public health and the quality of the environmental and establish policies and practices in the best interest of the city's current and future residents.

4. Retention of Right to Legislate. The Council considers it essential that it retains the right of elected officials to legislate on the behalf of citizens; and opposes any international agreements that limits this right.

5. Retention of Rights in Regards to Maori. The Council supports the New Zealand Government's stance that it should retain the right to make and implement policies in respect to Maori arising out of the provisions of the Treaty of Waitangi.

6. Government Procurement. The Council considers it essential that WTO agreements do not apply to government procurement of services, or the provision of social services, including services supplied in the exercise of governmental authority.

7. Investment Agreement. The Council encourages the New Zealand Government to reject any proposal to negotiate an investment agreement in the WTO. The WTO should, as previously agreed, only study the relationship between trade and investment and not become a forum for negotiating investment agreements.

8. Labour Standards. The Council is not in favour of exploitative labour practices. However, it believes that labour standards are a social issue and do not belong in the trading system. Labour standards are more effectively dealt with in organisations like the International Labour organisations (ILO) than in international economic agreements dealing with trade

9. Moratorium on Further Issues The Council seeks a moratorium on further issue being brought into the WTO until current proposals are reviewed and their impact assessed.

10. Clarification of the Government Position. The Council seeks clarification on and confirmation of the New Zealand Government's current position on the above matters.

11. Consultation. The Council requests that the New Zealand Government consults the New Zealand public on any future issues brought to the WTO negotiations particularly those relating to 'reservations'

The Council has attached resolutions passed by Christchurch's sister city, Seattle. These indicate that the above issues are of global concern rather than solely local governance issues.


ENDS

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