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Pigs will fly before Sutton’s Thai trade benefits

9 March 2005

Pigs will fly before Sutton’s Thai trade benefits eventuate

Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton’s assertion that there are strong reasons to pursue a free-trade agreement with Thailand won’t fly, the Green Party says.

“Jim’s assertion that there are strong reasons to negotiate the Thai free-trade agreement is the same one he made about the Singapore Closer Economic Partnership,” Green Co-Leader Rod Donald said. “But this time he is not so foolish as to promise an increase in trade with Thailand. That’s not surprising, because, in the four years since the Singapore agreement took effect, exports to Singapore have decreased from $487m to $336m and our trade deficit has increased from $24m to $610m.

“Despite the Thai closer economic partnership allowing Fonterra to flood Thailand with infant milk formula and powder, New Zealand’s trade deficit with Thailand is likely to grow as tariffs drop on Thailand’s sweatshop exports to New Zealand.”

Mr Donald said the agreement showed Labour was not living up to its commitment in the 1999 Speech From The Throne to better integrate labour and environmental standards into future trade agreements.

“The labour and environmental arrangements in this agreement are not worth the paper they’re written on, as they are totally non-binding and unenforceable. Thai factories have an appalling record of exploiting child and migrant workers. Adult workers are often paid less than the standard of living, with a minimum wage of 77 cents that is not rigorously enforced.”

“Meanwhile, the MFAT national interest analysis that the Thai agreement’s ‘overall effects on employment are more likely to be net positive’ won’t fill New Zealand workers with confidence. If they can’t guarantee more jobs, they shouldn’t be signing this deal.”

The process the Government is using to sign the free trade agreement is anti-democratic, Mr Donald said.

“It’s an insult to the democratic process that the Government has only given the Foreign Affairs Select Committee a few sessions to scrutinise this trade agreement. It then clearly intends to sign it without even the courtesy of a Parliamentary debate.”

ENDS

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