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“Symbolic” Vote Raises More Questions Than Answers

“Symbolic” Vote Raises More Questions Than It Answers

“The statement by the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, that there will be a ‘symbolic’ vote by Parliament over the proposed Singapore Free Trade agreement before it is ratified by Cabinet raises more questions than it answers”, Trade Union Federation Secretary, Michael Gilchrist, said today.

“Is the Prime Minister afraid that Parliament will vote down this agreement? If it does vote against the agreement, will the executive go ahead and impose it on us anyway? What will the vote symbolise then? That the global free market comes to us direct from the global corporate elite, without having to go through our parliamentary democracy?

“And what is the symbolism of any debate in Parliament by our elected representatives when none of their constituents is allowed to know what is in the agreement? The Government refuses to disclose the agreement and its background papers. The little we do know is that this agreement is more radical than its equivalent with Australia because it requires a smaller proportion of local content (40% as opposed to 50%) for goods to qualify for duty free status.

“But we are also extremely concerned at its possible investment provisions. If these resemble the investment provisions of the rejected Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) or the provisions contained in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) then they will be totally unacceptable to a wide range of New Zealanders. Investment provisions of this kind allow foreign corporations to sue national and local governments for any actions that interfere with their commercial interests. Provisions of this kind would severely hinder the Government’s economic development and “Buy New Zealand Made” programmes, for example.

“Statements by New Zealand negotiators that the Singapore agreement is a ‘Trojan horse’ for further agreements of the same kind in Asia and elsewhere only add to our concern.

“This agreement is too important to the future of our country for an ill-informed and impotent debate in parliament. The symbolism of such a process is all too clear. Let us know what is in this agreement and let our elected representatives have a decisive vote on its merits”, Mr Gilchrist concluded.

Further information: Michael Gilchrist 04 384 8963 or 04 237 7566

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