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Worst June trade deficit in 14 years

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"The great Kiwi consumption splurge continues to put more pressure on our external accounts as imports boom while the export sector struggles to find its feet," Labour finance spokesperson Michael Cullen said today.

The latest trade figures were far worse than the markets were expecting and are expected to produce the first monthly June deficit in 14 years.

"On a quarterly basis, imports were $526 million higher than the June 1998 quarter. Big contributors to this were consumer goods, up $91 million over the same period last year, and cars which were up $209 million.

"The continuing imbalance in the economic recovery reflects the failure of policy over the last several years to strengthen, diversify and add value to New Zealand's export base and to achieve the transition from a commodity-based to a knowledge economy.

"Labour's concerns on that score are shared by the hi-tech giant Motorola, and may deter Motorola from establishing a facility here," Dr Cullen said.

Dr Cullen was referring to comments by Ron Nissen, Motorola Pacific vice president and general manager. Mr Nissen said he was concerned about how strongly New Zealand was focused on having "a significant presence in this whole information economy/knowledge-based business."

"It is an appalling commentary on nine years of National government that a company of this sort should have these doubts about New Zealand's commitment to a high technology, knowledge intensive future," Dr Cullen said.

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