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GATS threatens councils' push to buy local

GATS threatens councils' push to buy local

Green MP Mike Ward today warned local government bodies that their attempts to support local businesses may be thwarted by the Government's commitment to GATS.

Many councils have 'local procurement' policies and support New Zealand-owned businesses through the contracting of services, but the Green Party's Local Government spokesperson warned these policies could breach the terms of the General Agreement on Trade in Services.

Government procurement policies are under negotiation in World Trade Organisation, which could lead to local bodies being taken to a WTO 'court' if they are seen to favour local service providers over foreign-owned providers.

"Many local authorities have realised there are significant advantages for their communities from sourcing their needs locally," said Mr Ward, a former Nelson City Councillor.

"GATS threatens an important Council capacity to encourage community economic development. Their multi-million dollar budgets for services can provide employment opportunities within the local community - keeping the people employed who pay the rates - or that money can disappear into offshore pockets."

Mr Ward called on the Government to reveal the details of negotiations to ensure communities and local authorities have a say in their economic wellbeing.

"The haste in which the Government has rushed through the GATS negotiations and the lack of consultation and consideration for the needs of local government is depressingly short-sighted.

"Local bodies are rightly concerned about the economic viability of their communities and should have full say in how they wish to manage their future. It should not be up to a three-person panel at the WTO in Geneva to decide that for them."

Mr Ward said councils should write to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and urge that the Government defends the ability of local authorities to have local procurement policies.

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