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Candles And Cake For 5th Trade Deficit

24 June 1999

Green MP presents Trade Minister with cake, candles to mark 5th trade deficit

Green MP Rod Donald delivered an imported cake topped with five imported candles to Trade Minister Lockwood Smith's office today to mark New Zealand's fifth consecutive annual trade deficit.

The May year trade figure is due out tomorrow with predictions the deficit will be at least $1.3 billion and as high as $1.5 billion. This will be the first time New Zealand has experienced five consecutive trade deficits this century.

"The root cause of our disastrous trade deficits is the government's fixation with free trade and Lockwood Smith, as the Minister for Overseas Trade, should accept responsibility for this disastrous situation," said Rod Donald.

The deficits for the previous four years were $478 million in 1998; $432 million in 1997; $643 million in 1996 and $422 million in 1995. The cumulative five year deficit will now total over $3 billion

By way of comparison, in the previous five years (1990-94) New Zealand achieved a cumulative trade surplus of $5.26 billion, with four surpluses out of five.

"We are now importing products we should be making ourselves, thanks to the Government opening up our borders to unfair competition, causing jobs to disappear as well as increasing the trade deficit," said Rod Donald.

"You couldn't operate your home or business like this without going broke. A common-sense government would stop running our country into the ground. Part of the solution to becoming a net exporter again must be the introduction of tariffs on imports," he said.

"For example a 10 per cent tariff on the cake I'm presenting to the Minister would increase its price from $5.50 to no more than $6.00. Quite frankly the people who can afford to pay $5.50 for 112 grammes of cake from an upmarket department store wouldn't notice an extra 50 cents.

"As to the candles, they are made in China and retail at the supermarket for $1.25. A 10 percent tariff would put up their price to no more than $1.37, still significantly cheaper than New Zealand made candles which cost $2.05.

"Tariffs help to level the playing field a little between New Zealand manufacturers who have to compete against importers of goods made with sweat shop pay and conditions.

"Instead of slagging opponents of free trade I want the Minister to explain how he intends to create jobs and shift overseas trade from the red to the black other than by chanting the 'export-led recovery' mantra which has clearly failed to deliver in the face of burgeoning imports," Rod Donald said.

ENDS

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