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What's Chinese for fair trade, Helen?


What's Chinese for fair trade, Helen?

The Green Party says the Prime Minister should raise China's appalling record of environmental abuse and child-labour exploitation when she meets that country's Commerce Minister in Auckland today to sign the first document towards a free trade deal.

"Helen Clark should raise China's awful labour and environmental record with the Minister - but I doubt she will," said Green Party Co-leader, Rod Donald. "This Government has a bad habit of turning a blind eye to such abuses in its single-minded pursuit of free trade deals.

"We can still hope that just before she signs on the dotted line she remembers that China is the country where millions of sweatshop workers are paid $1 an hour, which exploits the labour of some nine million 10-to-14 year olds, which bans strikes and workers' right to organise and suppresses calls for democracy.

"If Labour's leaders are prepared to exercise a geographic morality by preaching workers' rights in this country, but condoning the repression of those same rights in China, then perhaps they'll at least listen to the economic arguments against this so-called free trade deal."

Rod Donald pointed out that New Zealand's trade deficit with China for the year to March was the worst ever at $1.476 billion. Imports were up 11.7 per cent and exports were down 4.3 per cent. We're now importing twice as much from China as we export to it.

"If you think that's bad, imagine what it would be like if the Labour Government removes all tariffs on Chinese imports and we are swamped with even more sweatshop goods.

"The Ministry for Economic Development has calculated that 15 jobs disappear from the our economy for every million dollars worth of imported goods. On that basis, some 22,000 New Zealand jobs are being exported to China every year.

"The crazy thing is that we've been here before. Three years ago the Government promised that a free trade deal with Singapore would lead to more export opportunities for our manufacturers. Instead, our trade imbalance with Singapore has grown each year as imports rise and exports fall.

"For the March year, imports from Singapore were worth $688 million, up 15.9 per cent. For the same 12 months, our exports to Singapore were worth $311 million, down 15.2 per cent.

"The Greens don't want 'free' trade - we want fair trade," said Rod Donald. "We want trade that doesn't disadvantage our workers and manufacturers and that doesn't encourage the exploitation of any other country's workers and environment.

"Is that such a difficult concept to translate into Chinese?"

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