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Labour endangers services in trade negotiations

Labour endangers services in trade negotiations

The Green Party has accused Labour of risking local control of key social and public services with its negotiating stance at the P3 (New Zealand, Chile and Singapore) meeting being held in Wellington today.

In an unprecedented move for the Labour Government, its negotiators have put a ‘negative list’ on the table.

“A negative list requires the government to specify every single aspect of every service that it wants protected - anything not on that list is up for grabs,” said Green Party Co-leader, Rod Donald.

“It’s inevitable that key aspects of our public and private services will be locked open to foreign firms because it is impossible to reserve every conceivable sub-sector of a service, in each mode of supply.”

The P3 is supposedly based on the Singapore New Zealand Closer Economic Partnership Agreement, which takes a ‘positive list’ approach, specifying those services that are expressly open to competition.

“Submitting a negative list is a major policy change which the Government has slipped through with minimum analysis of the consequences or consultation with affected parties or public disclosure.

“It is extraordinary that the Labour Government is prepared to expose our basic services to even greater control by foreign corporates, despite having to step in to clean up the mess profiteers have caused in railways, electricity and banking,” said Rod Donald.

“It is also totally undemocratic because such agreements bind future governments, as Labour discovered when it tried to honour its election pledge to introduce a local content quota for broadcasting. Local government will also have its hands tied, despite having no say in what central government is up to.

“Government officials are going into these negotiations wearing blindfolds. It is an incredibly risky, grossly irresponsible and downright stupid strategy. How can these negotiators predict technological developments that do not exist at the time the schedule is drafted?

“Even if trade officials were armed with fool-proof crystal balls we would still oppose them setting a precedent that will inevitably influence negotiations with Thailand and China,” said Mr Donald. “The irony is that neither of those countries seem inclined to put its own services at risk through a negative list approach.”

“The Green Party opposes the inclusion of services in any trade agreement, but at the very least the Government must ensure that the risks are minimised by using a positive list.”

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