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GATS offer goes too far

GATS offer goes too far

The Government's initial GATS offer contained little to reassure New Zealanders that essential services will remain in kiwi hands, Green Party Co-leader Rod Donald said today.

"We're pleased that pressure from the Greens and the CTU has forced the Government to make public its initial General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) offer," Rod Donald commented. "Especially as it had resolutely refused to delay tabling this offer in Geneva to allow for proper public consultation in New Zealand.

"However, even a cursory glance through the document reveals holes that a horde of foreign bankers and businesses could drive a fleet of limousines through.

"The statement on the protection of public services from foreign interference reads well but is only contained in the introduction to the paper, carries no legal weight and is not binding on the Government.

"If the Government was serious about protecting public services it would - as the European Union has done - introduce a 'reservation' in its commitment schedule that would state explicitly that public services were excluded from the GATS.

"The lack of such a reservation casts doubt on the Government's willingness to fight to keep public services in public hands.

"The absence of a specific reservation for non-commercial Maori services such as kohanga reo and iwi radio means that Government support for these services can be challenged by foreign companies on the basis of preferential treatment for Maori.

"This initial offer also exposes the Government's lack of commitment to New Zealand music and film-making," Rod Donald pointed out. "The Government has failed to include a reservation that would enable it to introduce a mandatory local content quota for audio-visual services, in the event of the failure of a voluntary quota.

"Now that the Government has made its initial offer public, we challenge it to engage in a proper consultation process with the community and to allow proper parliamentary debate on the GATS."

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