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Farmers need to be wary of WTO

2 May 2001

Farmers need to be wary of WTO

Green MP Ian Ewen-Street today said while some farmers will welcome a decision by the WTO allowing New Zealand to import lamb to the US, farmers needed to be wary of the flipside of free trade agreements.

"What farmers have to bear in mind is that the WTO removes the fundamental right of nations to say no to imports which may not be in the best interests of the particular country, or which are simply not wanted," said Mr Ewen-Street.

"I suspect that while some farmers will today be celebrating, the boot could be on the other foot if New Zealand farmers were suddenly seriously undercut by a flood of cheap imports, such as Canadian pork, from another part of the world."

Mr Ewen-Street said the Green Party fully acknowledged the importance of trade - particularly in agricultural produce - to New Zealand, but said that trade should always be between willing partners and should never be forced.

"The anomoly of so-called 'free trade' is that it is not free at all. While New Zealand has become a member of the WTO this has not been a democratic decision with input from the public and it has never been debated in parliament."

Mr Ewen-Street said in the coming years New Zealanders would increasingly see the down-side of successive Government's willingness to sign up to binding free trade deals.

"For example Canada want to import trout into New Zealand which anglers argue could seriously damage New Zealand's fishery and, if we say no, they are likely to take us to the WTO to force us to accept their imports.

"Or following Australia's ban of Californian grape products due to serious biosecurity concerns the US are now appealing to the WTO, claiming that this ban is a barrier to trade," he said.

"There are a number of examples like this and New Zealanders should continue to question what these free trade deals actually mean for New Zealand's sovereignty," said Mr Ewen-Street.

"The Green Party support fair trade over free trade and support a country's right to decide what goods should be imported."

ENDS

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