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Anderton apologist for free trade

18 October 2001
Anderton apologist for free trade

The Green Party has accused Acting Customs Minister Jim Anderton of becoming an apologist for free trade following his defence of Customs' breaches under the Singapore Free Trade Agreement.

"The Alliance originally opposed the Singapore Free Trade Agreement and now Anderton is trying to downplay the fact that Singaporean companies are deliberately trying to flout the rules," Green Party MP Rod Donald said.

"We said it would happen, the Government claimed it wouldn't, and now we have proof free traders are cheating," he said.

The results of Customs Services' first six monthly compliance check since the free trade agreement took effect are as follows: * 146 import entries claimed tariff preference under the Singapore Free Trade Agreement. This number represents 1% of all import entries from Singapore. * 32 or 22% of these entries were tested by Customs. * 17 entries qualified for preferential entry. Foregone duty amounted to $236,152. * 15 entries or 47% of those tested could not provide evidence that they met the rules of origin (ROO) requirements. Additional duty of $34,250 was charged. * 11 out of 12 TCF (textile, clothing and footwear) entries were checked. * 10 of these, representing 99.46% of TCF imports by value, failed the ROO test * 114 entries claiming preference were not tested by Customs.

"Jim Anderton is trying to deny the extent of the problem by claiming that less than half of 1% of import entries from Singapore breached ROO requirements," Mr Donald said.

"He should instead be very concerned that almost half the entries checked by Customs were either declined or withdrawn and virtually 100% of the footwear and clothing was imported illegally.

"Overall, up to 129 or 88% of import entries claiming tariff preference either flouted or may have flouted the rules of origin requirements.

"If the Customs compliance report on Singapore doesn't send a message to the Government about the disaster that a free trade agreement with Hong Kong would have then I don't know what will.

"New Zealand currently imports only $15m of clothing from Hong Kong but $462m worth from China. If Hong Kong gets a 19% tariff preference over China you can guarantee what Hong Kong companies manufacturing in China will do and there is next to nothing New Zealand can do to stop it.

"Mr Anderton should remember what he used to stand for instead of dismissing the disastrous consequences of free trade agreements," he said.

ENDS

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