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NZ’s ‘most important relationship’ - or nightmare?

NZ’s ‘most important relationship’ - or worst nightmare?

Green Party Co-leader, Rod Donald is warning that a free-trade deal with China would be a nightmare for New Zealand’s struggling clothing and footwear manufacturers.

The Government has proclaimed "There's no relationship more important for New Zealand in the 21st century”, following talks this week with China on establishing a closer economic partnership, the first step to a free trade deal.

“Actually, there should be no more important relationship for this government in the 21st century than the one it has with the people of New Zealand, including the ones that will lose their livelihoods from any ‘deal’ with China,” said Mr Donald.

“We’re talking about a country where political dissent is suppressed, Tibet is denied sovereignty and where environmental concerns and workers’ rights are routinely ignored. How can New Zealand industries compete with sweatshops where workers are paid only $1 an hour and where some nine million 10-to-14 year olds are employed?

“China certainly is becoming an increasingly important trading partner for us, but the it’s very much a one-way ‘partnership’. For the year to September, New Zealand’s exports to China have improved fractionally while our imports have blown-out, leaving us with a trade deficit of $1300 million.

“The more we import from Asia, the fewer jobs remain in the New Zealand clothing and footwear sectors.

“In 1989, when imports from Asia were under $200 million, there were over 17,000 fulltime equivalent jobs in those sectors,” Mr Donald said. “By 2001 imports had increased to over $1,000 million and the number of jobs had slumped to just over 8,000.

”This lopsided relationship will only get worse if the Labour government signs up to a free trade deals with China.”

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