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Give us our money back, Mr Lee

21 November, 2003

Give us our money back, Mr Lee

Green Co-leader Rod Donald is asking Singapore's Deputy PM Lee Hsien Loong to bring a cheque for $634 million with him when he arrives here on Sunday to wave the free-trade flag at the "Seriously Asia" forum at Parliament next week.

That is the size of New Zealand's trade deficit with Singapore since the Closer Economic Partnership (CEP) between the two countries took effect on January 1st, 2001.

"Both Singapore and New Zealand governments promised mutual benefits when this free trade deal was signed," said Rod Donald. "Instead, it's been a one-way river of money flowing from New Zealand to Singapore.

"If Governments had to operate under our Fair Trading Act, then Dr Cullen would be prosecuted for misleading advertising and Singapore would be forced to pay back all the millions that this 'deal' has sucked out of our country.

"New Zealand had a trade deficit with Singapore of $209 million for the two years and nine months before we threw open our borders. In the two years and nine months since, our deficit has leaped to $634 million. That's a 203 per cent blow-out."

Dr Cullen and Trade Minister Jim Sutton keep making the excuse that Singapore is struggling economically at the moment, said Mr Donald. Clearly that doesn't apply to its export sector, which has increased its trade to New Zealand by 24 per cent under the CEP. Meanwhile, New Zealand exports to Singapore have dropped by nine per cent.

"There's not even a glimmer of hope on the horizon," Mr Donald said. "Our trade deficit with Singapore for the nine months to September is already $206 million, and looks certain to eclipse the deficits for the last two years of $208 million and $220 million. "All of which begs the questions: what's 'fair' about one-way trading, and - when are you going to give us our money back, Mr Lee?"


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