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Alliance releases Trade and Sovereignty Policies

19 July 2002

Alliance releases Trade and Sovereignty Policies

Alliance Leader Laila Harré released the party’s Trade and Sovereignty policies today with an emphasis on protecting New Zealand’s economic, social and environmental interests and working co-operatively with other nations to lift social, environmental and labour standards worldwide.

“At the heart of our Trade and Sovereignty policies is a commitment to putting people first. We wholeheartedly reject the notion that people in New Zealand and around the world come second to the demands of big business,” said Laila Harré.

Speaking at a Grey Power meeting in Auckland’s North Shore the Alliance Leader said the Alliance was founded on the principles of public ownership and control of water, electricity, telecommunications, railways, ports and airports.

“Huge profits have been made by private purchases through the sale of our public assets such as water, rail and telecommunications. Most of these profits have gone overseas. We must re-establish our sovereignty over these resources and services.”

Laila Harré said that the Alliance would regulate the electricity and telecommunications networks. The Commerce Act would be amended so that the provision of water was not a commercial activity and water services would be returned to Council ownership and control.

The Alliance would strengthen the powers of the Overseas Investment Commission (OIC) and would require it to consider a broader range of public interest issues such as job creation in determining whether to allow companies to invest in New Zealand.

Laila Harré also said that Alliance supported fair trade, not free trade, and that the
Alliance would seek to build coalitions with like-minded nations in shaping fair and just world trade and investment arrangements.

“Free trade polices serve only the interests of wealthy nations and transnational companies. The Alliance believes we should be working on fair trade agreements that safeguard New Zealand jobs, industries, public services and environment as well as the needs of the people of developing countries.”

The Alliance would continue to promote the cancellation of Third World debt, would apply local tariffs to protect local industries during their development phase and oppose any inclusion of education, health, water and any other public services in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

“Under the proposed GATS education is treated as a tradeable commodity. The Alliance will not sign up to any GATS that does not allow preferential use of government funds for New Zealand public education institutions over transnational providers.

Laila Harré, who as Associate Minister of Commerce has had responsibility for Intellectual Property within the portfolio, said the Alliance would seek an amendment to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to ensure protection of traditional knowledge and allow compulsory licensing of pharmaceuticals in the interests of public health.

***


The Issues
 The corporatisation of New Zealand’s state-owned assets in the 1980s was a first step in readying strategic resources for sale. The Alliance was founded on the principles of public ownership and control of water, electricity, telecommunications, railways, ports and airports. We have consistently campaigned to prevent the sale of these assets.

 Opening up Aotearoa/New Zealand to increased foreign investment has meant that many of the basic needs of the majority of people in this country are prey to the vagaries of the speculation-driven world markets.

 Huge profits have been made by private purchasers through the sale of our public assets such as water, rail and telecommunications. Most of these profits have gone overseas.

 We must re-establish our sovereignty over these resources and services.

The Goals
 The Alliance will regulate electricity generating and supply companies so that they operate in the public interest.

 Water is not a commodity to be bought and sold for private profit. The Alliance will amend the Commerce Act so that water provision can no longer be a commercial activity. We oppose the contracting out of water services and public-private partnerships (joint ventures). The Alliance supports the abolition of Local Authority Trading Enterprises (LATES) and will return water services to Council ownership and control

 The Alliance will integrate the rail network into transport planning policy and at the same time maintain the road network under public control and resist any attempt to establish public-private partnerships for road construction.

 The Alliance will regulate and control monopoly power in the now privatised telecommunications network. We will maintain the Kiwi Share in Telecom, which placed a 49.9% ceiling on the shareholding of any foreign buyer; and required the Telecom Board to comprise at least 50% New Zealand citizens.

 The Alliance’s first priority is our public education system. Under the proposed General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), education is treated as a tradeable commodity. The Alliance will not sign up to any GATS that does not allow preferential use of government funds for New Zealand public education institutions over transnational providers.

 The Alliance will regulate the activities of transnational corporations (TNCs) to ensure that companies doing business here are completely covered by our laws, especially our labour and environmental standards.

 The powers of the Overseas Investments Commission (OIC) will be strengthened and it will be required to consider a broader range of public interest issues such as job creation in determining whether to allow companies to invest in New Zealand. There will be particular limitations re-imposed on the foreign ownership of land.

The Issues
 The policies of international organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), OECD and APEC are based on “free market” principles. These principles bring pressure to privatise, deregulate and reduce the role of government. They open the economy to trade and investment that is inconsistent with New Zealand’s economic, social and environmental policies and needs.

 These free trade policies serve only the interests of wealthy nations and transnational corporations. They lead to a loss of economic independence for most countries and the exploitation of their people.

 The Alliance supports fair trade and opposes the free trade principles propounded by organisations such as the WTO, IMF, etc. The Alliance believes New Zealand’s trade policy should follow from and be consistent with our economic, social and environmental policies.

 To be consistent with our Economic Policy, any trade and investment agreements which New Zealand is party to should safeguard New Zealand’s national interests. Our environment, resources, development, and the health and safety of our people should be protected.

 To be consistent with our Foreign Policy, New Zealand should take an active and independent role that is not tied to the positions of major economic powers, but seeks to build coalitions with like-minded nations in shaping fair and just world trade and investment arrangements. New Zealand should also work to ensure these agreements safeguard the needs of the people of developing countries, particularly those relating to food security and health.

 To be consistent with our Environmental Policy, trade rules should be subservient to international environmental agreements promoting sustainable resource use and protection of the eco-system.

 Because of all these issues, Trade Policy was one area where the Alliance has its biggest differences with its Labour Party coalition partner in the current Government. The Alliance voted against the Singapore Closer Economic Partnership Agreement and is also opposed to the proposed Hong Kong agreement. We did not support opening negotiations with the US for a bilateral free trade agreement.

The Goals
 The Alliance seeks a public review of New Zealand’s membership of the WTO, World Bank, IMF, OECD and APEC and other such trading arrangements and a moratorium on extending commitments to these agencies until the review has been completed.

 The Alliance will not be a party to negotiations of any trade agreements that are based on free market principles. For example Hong Kong, U.S.A., South Korea, etc.

 We will seek the termination of the Singapore-New Zealand Closer Economic Partnership, whilst encouraging talks on new arrangements that are consistent with our fair trade policy.

 We will advocate for withdrawal of all New Zealand’s commitments to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) relating to education, water, health, the environment, and any other areas which impact on our ability to provide essential public services for New Zealand.

 We will oppose the introduction of the “New Issues” (Investment, Competition, Transparency in Government Procurement, and Trade Facilitation) into the WTO. These have many of the features of the discredited Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) and will be of detriment to New Zealand’s sovereignty.

 We will seek the amendment of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) to ensure protection of traditional knowledge and allow compulsory licensing of pharmaceuticals in the interests of public health.

 The Alliance will continue to provide tariff protection to the Textile, Clothing and Footwear industries in order to assist the re-development of a sustainable TCF industry in New Zealand based on adequate wages and conditions. And make prudent use of tariffs, marketing and other support to non-traditional exporters for a limited period while they establish markets. We will support traditional and established exporters in finding and establishing markets, consistent with this policy.

 The Alliance will work towards strengthening the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to allow it to enforce internationally agreed labour standards, especially its eight core conventions covering freedom of association and protection of the right to organise; forced labour; discrimination; equal pay and child labour.

 We will call on the Cairns Group to withdraw its support for policies that force developing countries to open their economies to food imports, and to incorporate policies that protect food security in developing countries.

 We will continue to promote the cancellation of Third World debt and work cooperatively with organisations and countries with the same aim.

 We will promote International cooperation to protect economies from rapid movements of capital, including a financial transactions tax (Tobin Tax). We will seek international agreement to protect and enhance nations’ rights to use capital and exchange controls, and to regulate the behaviour of transnational corporations;

 Environmental agreements and trade co-operation agreements to protect the environment, such as the international convention on trade in endangered species (CITES), will be supported and encouraged.

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