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From human rights campaigner to free trade zealot

From human rights campaigner to free trade zealot

Committing New Zealand to free trade negotiations with Myanmar completes Helen Clark’s transformation from human rights campaigner to free trade zealot, the Green Party says.

“Ten years ago, Helen Clark said that the collapse of apartheid in South Africa only occurred because of international pressure in the form of economic and other sanctions,” Green Co-Leader Rod Donald said.

“Now, she is claiming that Myanmar’s appalling human rights abuses should not get in the way of doing a free trade deal with this oppressive military regime.

“The Prime Minister should have backed off trade talks with ASEAN as soon as Myanmar’s generals announced they were locking up pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi for another twelve months.

“Helen Clark is right to highlight that Ms Suu Kyi won an election and should be Myanmar’s Prime Minister, but her handwringing will be dismissed because, in the next breath, she says she wants to give Myanmar preferential trade access to the New Zealand market.”

The Green Party is concerned about more than human rights abuses in ASEAN countries, citing sweatshop working conditions, core labour standard violations and poor environmental records as grounds for not entering into trade negotiations.

“To remain true to its principles, Labour’s bottom line should be no trade deals with countries that do not comply with core ILO labour standards or do not respect the environment.

“To do anything less is condoning forced labour, especially of children, and is undermining wages and working conditions in New Zealand.

“The exploitation of Asian workers creates unfair competition for New Zealand businesses and their staff. If the Government persists with its plan to remove the remaining tariffs on imports from sweatshop economies, thousands of New Zealanders’ jobs will disappear in the manufacturing sector.”

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