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Only fools rush into China

Only fools rush into China

Green Party Co-Leader Rod Donald says New Zealand would be foolish to rush headlong into a free trade agreement with China.

"It's not a race. There's no prize and only pain in being first over the edge of the cliff," said Mr Donald, Green Spokesperson on Trade.

"Free trade in China will be bad news for workers and the environment in both countries."

On entering office in 1999 the Labour government said in its speech from the throne: "legitimate issues of labour standards and environmental concerns need to be integrated better with trade agreements."

Mr Donald said "now Labour's trying to back-pedal on its commitments, saying that New Zealand by itself can't effect changes in China's labour and environmental policies.

"If New Zealand alone can't convince China to address inhumane working conditions and environmental pillaging, then the Labour government alone shouldn't be entering into free trade negotiations.

"In effect, New Zealand has committed to entering these negotiations with no bottom line. Instead everything is up for negotiation; everything is being put on the chopping block.

"Talks should be begin with a clear, non-negotiable bottom line: Trade with China should not be compromised by unfair and inhumane labour conditions and wanton degradation of the environment.

"The Government claims negotiations will only be entered into after a 'joint study' of the costs and benefits, but the endorsement of the deal today by Clark and Sutton undermines any credibility it might have.

"Any study should closely examine the impact that increasing exports to China will have on the New Zealand environment.

"For instance, the rash of dairy conversions in recent years has already placed an enormous strain on the capacity of many parts of New Zealand to cope with water abstraction for irrigation and dairy runoff. I doubt New Zealanders would support converting our clean green environment into a dairy paddock for China's emerging middle class.

"Workers in Guandong are paid as little as $US1 an hour for 16 hour days. Workers in New Zealand can't, shouldn't, and won't compete with such sweatshop conditions.

"Free trade means we'll be forced into a 'race to the bottom', our own labour and environmental standards will be compromised and our trade deficit with China will balloon past the present $1.3 billion," said Mr Donald.

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