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Moore visit a symbol of “democracy deficit”

“The visit to New Zealand of WTO head Mike Moore and his investiture with the Order of New Zealand co-incides with growing anger amongst workers, students and a wide range of civil society organisations over the growing “democracy deficit” in New Zealand,” Trade Union Federation Secretary, Michael Gilchrist, said today.

“The wall of secrecy surrounding the Singapore Free Trade Agreement is only the latest example.

“The leader of the house, Michael Cullen, has refused to allow the Singapore Free Trade agreement to be debated in Parliament. MFAT have refused to disclose the matters under negotiation, including such crucial questions as local content.

“The two major political parties in New Zealand are running an identical policy of trade and investment liberalisation as per the WTO approach. Foreign Affairs Minister, Jim Sutton, has actually referred to it as a bi-partisan approach. The Alliance have also fallen into line.

“So New Zealanders have no knowledge, no participation and no choice in our country’s trade and investment policies. That’s a huge democracy deficit to go with our equally outsized balance of payments deficit. Both are rapidly reducing our domestic choices.

“A free trade and investment agreement with the powerful Singaporean economy has many dangers. From what we can learn, for example, between 20 and 40% local content will be required for so called Singaporean goods to achieve duty free status. This will effectively create an open door for goods to be trans-shipped through Singapore free of duty to New Zealand. By contrast, the CER agreement with Australia requires 50% local content.

“There are also huge dangers in likely national treatment clauses requiring New Zealand's central and local government to treat Singaporean products, service providers and investors as well as, or better than, our own - particularly in areas such as education and broadcasting or areas covered by the Treaty of Waitangi.

“There is a growing understanding internationally that trade and investment liberalisation has a fundamentally imperialist structure. It means protection for the rich and powerful nations and a growing concentration of capital. But it means increasing foreign penetration and the destruction of national economies for the rest of us.

“Mike Moore has, from the outset, been identified with the rich and powerful nations, particularly the United States. His posturing as a representative of the poorer nations is only a part of the overall strategy for increasing liberalisation. This makes him a prime target for oppposition worldwide”, Mr Gilchrist concluded.

A range of groups will protest against Mr Moore and the WTO from 10.00 am tomorrow, Friday 11 August, at Government House on the Basin Reserve, Wellington.

For further information: Michael Gilchrist (04) 384 8963 or (04) 237 7566


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