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Tell The Truth On Trade, Mr Sutton

6 September 2004
Tell the truth on trade, Mr Sutton

Green Co-Leader Rod Donald has accused Trade Minister Jim Sutton of hiding the truth about New Zealand's trade with ASEAN countries*.

Mr Sutton is talking up the prospects of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with ASEAN while attending a meeting of the trade bloc in Jakarta.

"As usual, Mr Sutton only tells half the story when he crows that New Zealand merchandise exports to ASEAN totalled $2.2 billion," said Mr Donald, the Green Party's Trade Spokesperson.

"But he conveniently forgets to mention that our imports from those countries for the year to July were $3.17 billion and our trade deficit with the bloc was $955 million".

"The truth is that New Zealand's trade relationship with ASEAN countries has been deteriorating for the last three years. Our exports have declined 23.6 per cent during that period, our imports have gone up 15 per cent and a $317 million trade surplus has turned into an $840 million trade deficit for the June year.

"A FTA with ASEAN would make our trade deficit even worse, because removing the remaining tariffs, our only protection against cheap sweatshop imports, would be like letting loose a plague of locusts on our manufacturing sector.

"While Mr Sutton talks up the possible benefits of a FTA to New Zealand's dairy industry, he doesn't seem to care that such a deal would kill off not only our textile, clothing and footwear sectors, but also our 'elaborately transformed manufacturing' industries, such as our hi-tech whitewear producers.

"The Government should be protecting New Zealanders' jobs and businesses, instead of trying to compete in a race to the bottom.

"And Labour certainly shouldn't be opening our borders to the repressive Burmese regime.

"Instead of selling out New Zealand at international conferences, Mr Sutton should come home and explain why his Government's trade policies have led to New Zealand's worst-ever total trade deficit - $3.42 billion, announced today for the year to July," said Mr Donald.

*ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations, consists of Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.


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