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Group Challenges Govt. Expenditure On APEC Gabfest

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE
13 November 2000

APEC Monitoring Group Challenges Government Participation, Expenditure in APEC Gabfest

“If Helen Clark thinks that APEC has run out of steam why is her government continuing the pretence that APEC is going somewhere and is worth supporting? As long as the government participates in it, it is clinging to a discredited free market economic model which aims to do to the whole Asia Pacific region what Rogernomics and Ruthanasia did to New Zealand”, says the Aotearoa/New Zealand APEC Monitoring Group, which campaigned against last year’s APEC meetings in New Zealand. “But APEC is a talkfest going nowhere fast.”

According to figures obtained under the Official Information Act, the government is spending $2,108712 on participation in APEC activities throughout 2000, including the costs of officials and politicians attending this week’s APEC Summit in Brunei.

“How on earth can it justify this expenditure?” asks the APEC Monitoring Group.

“Last year the Shipley government spent almost $50 million on hosting APEC and promised this would lead to all kinds of benefits and opportunities that have never eventuated.. At the time we said APEC would barely limp on into the new millennium, and that the Summit was a taxpayer-funded pre-election photo opportunity for the Shipley government. We have been proved to be right, and National lost the election.

“We warned that internal tensions among the 21 APEC members would paralyse efforts to speed up and broaden trade and investment liberalisation. Unlike the economic fundamentalism of successive New Zealand governments, many APEC members have long been critical of claims that economic liberalisation is the only alternative. Because of these conflicts and the inability to reach consensus APEC shunted off many issues to the WTO - which also failed to deal with them when the Seattle talks dissolved in disarray. Now both the WTO and APEC are engulfed by a serious crisis of legitimacy and credibility, and the multilateral trading system is struggling to keep its head above water.”

“In 1999 we pointed out that official moves to seek the “constructive participation” of “civil society” in APEC was merely public relations rhetoric to try to stave off mounting criticism of the forum and its free market goals

“Since last year’s APEC Summit in Auckland, peoples movements around the world have made it clear their response to continued attempts to push this narrow economic agenda on the world will no longer be so ‘civil’. There have been major protests in Seattle, Washington, Melbourne, Prague, Seoul and dozens of other cities around the world against meetings which promote free trade and investment. Meanwhile many governments, particularly in the Third World, are resisting pressure to implement further trade and investment liberalisation measures.

“The tide is turning internationally against the economic policy package that APEC and the WTO promote. But the Labour-led government is playing King Canute as it tries desperately to kickstart multilateral trade and investment liberalisation through a patchwork of bilateral deals with countries like Singapore and Hong Kong.

“It is high time the government stopped to rethink its position in relation to international trade and economic policy and the social, political, and environmental costs of free trade and investment ideology.”

For further comment, contact Aziz Choudry (03) 3662803 or 3484763; Radha D’Souza (09) 846 3227 or Maxine Gay/Robert Reid (04) 237 5062 or 3895399


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