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GATS D-Day follows shroud of secrecy

GATS D-Day follows shroud of secrecy

The Green Party is demanding the Government extend the deadlines on its secretive Gats negotiations, which have the potential to erode fundamental protections for New Zealand services, businesses, land and resources.

Public submissions close today on the areas the Government proposes to offer to open to foreign competition, in the latest round of the multilateral General Agreement on Trade in Services negotiations.

Green Party Co-leader Rod Donald said today he was disgusted the New Zealand public had been given only 25 days to comment, when the Government had been in consultation with New Zealand businesses for more than a year.

"The undemocratic nature of the process is totally unacceptable. These are essential areas New Zealanders have a fundamental stake in. Giving companies an inside track is a sell-out," he said.

"First and foremost, the Government must immediately extend the deadline for public submissions. Then it must make public its initial offers before submitting them to the World Trade Organisation, and debate these in Parliament. This can't be done properly before the WTO deadline of 31 March for initial offers from member countries of areas they are prepared to open to competition," Mr Donald said.

New Zealand unions, local authorities, Local Government New Zealand and other community groups have also called for this deadline to be extended.

"If it just completely ignores what the people are saying and refuses to make its offer public, it will confirm this Labour Government is determined to maintain absolute power rather than open up international negotiations to a proper democratic process," Mr Donald said.

Though the deadline is today, the public should continue to bombard the Government with submissions, he said.

The WTO agreement enables the member countries to negotiate legally binding undertakings to open specific services sectors to foreign competition, and to treat foreign suppliers as they would domestic suppliers.

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