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Free-trade deal callous and cruel for workers

31 March 2005
Free-trade deal callous and cruel for workers in Malaysia and NZ

The Greens want to know why the Labour Government has decided to negotiate a free-trade deal with a country that has no minimum wage, refuses to protect their workers’ right to organise, allows discrimination in the work place, and supports forced labour.

Today, Prime Minister Helen Clark announced the Government was starting free-trade agreement negotiations with Malaysia.

“While Malaysia is not as bad as Burma, the Government shouldn’t be doing a preferential trade deal with a country until it embraces the same fundamental workers’ rights and protections that are taken for granted in New Zealand,” Green Co-Leader Rod Donald said.

“How can the Prime Minister claim that our two economies are complementary when Malaysia refuses to ratify two core International Labour Organisation conventions, protecting the freedom of association and right to organise, and forbidding discrimination in employment including those on the grounds of gender and race?

“Even worse, Malaysia had ratified the convention on the abolition on forced labour in 1958, before denouncing it in 1990.

“Based on the Thai experience, we have no confidence that Labour will uphold its Speech from the Throne commitment to incorporate labour and environmental standards in this free-trade agreement.”

Mr Donald said the free-trade deal would be detrimental to many New Zealand manufacturing workers.

“By opening the door to more Malaysian imports without requiring Malaysia to ratify these conventions, the Labour Government is undermining the status of New Zealand workers and the viability of New Zealand businesses.

“A Malaysian free-trade deal is yet another example of the Government favouring primary exporters over manufacturing workers. It’s one thing to pick winners, but doing it at the expense of other sectors of the economy is cruel and callous.”

New Zealand has had a trade deficit with Malaysia since 1997. Last year it was a record $316 million.


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