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Papers Show Treaty Clause Was Extended

National today released papers obtained under the Official Information Act which show that the Government extended the Treaty of Waitangi clause in the Singapore trade deal to go beyond mere Treaty obligations.

"We object to the Government using trade deals to promote its now highly questioned 'closing the gaps' policy," Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley said today.

"That's a far more questionable step than simply honouring its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

"But the papers show that is what the Government has done:"

As a result of the outreach we have conducted with Maori on the CEP with Singapore, our (MFAT) view is that the proposed Article on the Treaty of Waitangi needs to be broadened to make it clear that it is not just actions taken to fulfil Treaty obligations that would be exempted from the Agreement but also affirmative action programmes for Maori, e.g. Closing the Gaps which may not be directly linked to a specific Treaty obligation.

"This is precisely the issue we have raised all along," Mrs Shipley said.

"In the Heads of Agreement that Lockwood Smith and Singapore Trade Minister George Yeo signed in September 1999, the New Zealand Government simply sought the right to enact policies that would allow 'New Zealand to fulfil its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.'

"But in the agreement the Labour Government finalised with Singapore, those words have grown to cover 'more favourable treatment to Maori in respect of matters covered by this agreement including in fulfilment of its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.'

"The CEP is the first such agreement - including the 1994 General Agreement on Trade in Services and the subsequently abandoned 1998 Multilateral Agreement on Investment - that links both the Treaty and a commitment to 'more favourable' treatment for Maori.

"To National, that is a worrying trend. We've objected to the growing number of Treaty clauses in Government legislation that interpret the Treaty as a guarantee of more favourable treatment.

"We see such clauses leading to fruitless court action rather than genuine progress.

"That's why we've signalled our intention to renegotiate the Treaty article when we are next in Government.

"We have a real concern that ill-conceived Treaty clauses are in fact damaging race relations in New Zealand," Mrs Shipley said.


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