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Labour can't have it both ways on trade

11 May 2005

Labour can't have it both ways on trade

Labour's hypocrisy on trade has been exposed by Aid Minister Marian Hobbs making a statement promoting fair trade on the same day her Government tabled its Thai tariff preference bill, the Green Party says.

"Congratulations Marian!", Green Co-Leader Rod Donald said. "We endorse your support of certified fair-trade products because, as you say, 'the fair trade logo is proof that the producers of that product have been paid a fair price and are working in acceptable conditions'.

"So why, in the next breath, is your Government undermining that goal by cutting tariffs on imports from Thailand, a country with a shameful labour record, including the non-ratification of four of the eight core International Labour Organisation conventions?

"The Government's aid policy is to encourage Kiwis to support workers in developing countries by purchasing fair trade products. However, the Government's trade policy is to turn a blind eye to Thailand's labour and human rights abuses by giving sweatshop goods preferential trade access to New Zealand's market. It can't it have it both ways."

The Green Party will be opposing the Tariff (New Zealand-Thailand Closer Economic Partnership) Bill, because it threatens Kiwi jobs and will do nothing to work Thai workers out of poverty.

"The fact that the Bill includes transitional safeguard measures, ostensibly to protect New Zealand industry from any serious injury caused by the likely surge in competing imports from Thailand, strengthens rather than alleviates our concerns."

The Thai Government's refusal to ratify core ILO conventions means that:
- Workers do not have the right to organise and conduct collective bargaining, something we take for granted;
- Thai women workers are denied the protection of Convention on Discrimination, so they can be and are paid less than Thai men;
- Children are denied the protection of the Convention on Minimum Wage;

In addition, Thailand does little to enforce the Conventions on forced labour, despite ratifying them, so de facto forced labour remains widespread, particularly among those fleeing political oppression and human rights abuses in Burma.

More than 500,000 13-14 year-olds are known to be working, while an additional 1,500,000 children aged six-to-14 are not registered in schools - many of whom will probably be working illegally. Child exploitation is coupled with an obscene minimum adult wage of only $6.20 a day, or $31 a week.


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