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No honour or profit in Thai trade deal

No honour or profit in Thai trade deal

A free trade deal with Thailand would fly in the face of the very principles that the Labour Party was founded on, Green Party Co-leader Rod Donald said today.

"I am amazed that the Government is even contemplating the possibility of entering into a 'closer economic partnership' with a country that has such an appalling record in child labour and the abuse of workers' rights," Rod Donald said.

He was commenting on an announcement today from Trade Minister Jim Sutton that New Zealand and Thailand would conduct a scoping study on a closer economic partnership

Mr Donald noted that the ILO 2001 yearbook reported 173,000 children between 13-14 years and almost two million children between 15-19 were working.

Meanwhile, a US State Department report last year found that the official Thai minimum wage was not adequate to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family, and that migrants and children were working for wages that were significantly lower than the minimum wage.

"Wiping out tariff protection for New Zealand clothing manufacturers will simultaneously boost the number of Thai sweatshops and doom thousands of New Zealand workers," Rod Donald said.

"How can New Zealand manufacturers compete on such a distorted playing field? The simple answer is: they can't.

"We recorded a $200 million trade deficit with Thailand in the last calendar year. Why open our borders further to goods produced at the expense of workers' human rights and a nation's environment?

"This Government appears to have a severe case of free-trade lunacy. I suggest Jim Sutton takes a dose of reality and starts doing something that will really pay this country an economic and environmental dividend, like staying at home and sorting out our biosecurity problems."

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