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Free trade deal a tragedy for New Zealand

Free trade deal a tragedy for New Zealand

National Party Leader Don Brash says the free trade deal announced today between Australia and the United States is a tragedy for New Zealand.

"Once upon a time it would have been unthinkable for New Zealand to be excluded from such a deal. It is a sad reflection on how far the relationship with our most important friends and allies has slipped.

"Even with the limitations, this agreement is still a huge boost for Australia. They at least have a deal and the scope to proceed with improvements in the future. It is better to be in the race than not even at the starting blocks, as New Zealand is.

"New Zealand farmers and exporters must be looking at their Australian cousins with envy. A free trade deal with the US is estimated to be worth more than $1 billion a year to our economy.

"Already Australians earn on average $180 more a week than New Zealanders. This gap is only going to widen now as firms and businesses look to invest in Australia because of this comparative advantage.

"The collapse of the WTO talks in Cancun was the first major blow to our hopes. Since then the US has talked of abandoning the multilateral process in favour of bilateral and regional negotiations. None of these has included New Zealand, thanks to the serious deterioration in our relationship with the US and Australia.

"Offensive comments made by Helen Clark about US President George Bush and a total lack of commitment to defence and security issues have left New Zealand isolated on the world stage.

"Trade is New Zealand's life blood and this Government has performed poorly in enhancing its flow. It's no wonder that Helen Clark has backed away from plans to return New Zealand to the top half of the OECD in a decade," said Dr Brash.

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