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Helen, please don't buy Thai PM's dirty deal

5 July, 2004

Helen, please don't buy Thai PM's dirty deal

The Green Party is warning that Thailand's already ultra-rich "business" leaders will be the only ones to benefit from a free trade agreement with New Zealand.

"Fresh from his failure to buy into Liverpool Football Club using state lottery money, billionaire Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra meets Helen Clark tomorrow to push for another bad deal for his country - and ours,'' said Green Party Co-Leader Rod Donald.

"Helen Clark has to ask the Thai PM exactly who will benefit from his 'deal'.

"It certainly won't be the thousands of New Zealanders still earning a living from the clothing and manufacturing sectors. Nor will New Zealand's economy benefit, as our rapidly growing trade deficit with Thailand, which hit $240 million last year, continues to deteriorate.

"A new influx of 'made-in-Thailand' goods will cost New Zealand jobs, businesses and revenue. How can New Zealanders compete when Thai sweatshop owners are allowed to get away with paying their workers - including at least half a million children - 77 cents an hour? Even kiwi consumers will eventually pay a high price for cheaper socks and shirts, as quality New Zealand-made goods disappear from the shelves.

"The Thai people lose out because such agreements reinforce medieval employment practises which do not recognise international labour, justice or environment regimes. And Thai farmers are already warning that a similar agreement with Australia has the potential to destroy their dairy industry.

"So, who benefits from this deal? Certainly, the tiny clique that pulls the strings of the Thai industrial-political complex will make money.

"We don't expect the Thai PM to declare a conflict of interest, but Kiwis should know that his family is one of the major players in the Thai banking, telecom and media industries, that Mr Thaksin himself personally intervened to override environmental planning procedures for four huge energy projects and that one of his key political and business allies also happens to be the head of the giant Thai agribusiness corporation CP - who was implicated in a cover-up of the fatal chicken 'flu epidemic last year.

"So, we know who the winners are and we know the losers are from a free trade deal with Thailand," said Mr Donald. "What we don't understand is why a Labour-led Government wants to do business with such a dubious regime."


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