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Fairer trade rules delivering more jobs for Kiwis

25 March 2004
Hon Matt Robson MP, Progressive Deputy Leader

Fairer trade rules delivering more jobs for Kiwis

International trade reforms won in the last big round of WTO negotiations have created thousands of new jobs in New Zealand, Progressive deputy leader Matt Robson said today.

Matt Robson said research from MAF and MFAT shows that about 17,600 jobs were created in the New Zealand economy during the ten-year Uruguay Round implementation period which saw reductions to unfair trade barriers.

Sometimes trade negotiations seemed distant from people’s lives here in New Zealand, but the changes negotiated as part of big trade deals could be extremely important for all New Zealanders.

“Trade Minister Jim Sutton has highlighted the $9 billion extra farmers and other exporters have earned because of the World Trade Organisation’s last big trade negotiations. But that trade deal was important for workers as well.

“The MAF-MFAT study calculates that all those extra export opportunities and higher earnings resulting from the Uruguay Round changes meant that more than 2000 extra people were employed in primary production last year.

“The extra earnings have different multipliers depending on which sector you’re looking at. For example, the fruit and vegetable sector is labour-intensive and each extra million dollars of horticultural exports generally has a total employment increase of 42 people. Capital-intensive industries such as dairy increase employment by 21.7 people for every million dollars of extra exports.

“Direct employment effects from the Uruguay Round were an extra 2,700 jobs last year. Now we know why Fonterra plants in Edendale, Taranaki, and Clandeboye, South Canterbury, are expanding and taking on more staff. It’s a direct result of the increased access for our dairy products, as achieved in the Uruguay Round.”

Matt Robson said the study estimated that a ripple effect through the economy increased this to 17,600 more jobs for 2002, over and above what there would have been without the Uruguay Round.

"Fairer international trade rules, that is rules which don't penalize agricultural exporters like New Zealand so much, deliver more jobs and therefore the chance of better living standards for all.

"These jobs may be created in small numbers at a time, but they add up to significant numbers when totalled up."

Matt Robson said lowering barriers to cross-border trade by definition involves challenges to companies and economies and it is important for governments to mitigate any short-term adverse impacts on individual workers and families.

“This Labour-Progressive government is doing that, as shown by the strategy being worked on for the textiles, clothing, and footwear industry, helping it adjust to international competition and reduced tariffs. There are jobs being lost, but there are also new jobs being created in that sector. We are working to facilitate industry growth and to ensure that workers are looked after.”


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