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Campaign Against Hong Kong Free Trade Deal

21 May 2001
Christchurch Public Meeting To Launch South Island Campaign Against Hong Kong Free Trade & Investment Deal

Dr Bill Rosenberg, author of "Globalisation By Stealth: The proposed New Zealand Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement and Investment" and Maxine Gay, Secretary of the Clothing Workers Union and former Trade Union Federation president will address a public meeting in Christchurch on Wednesday (23rd May) as part of a nationwide campaign to stop the Hong Kong free trade agreement.

"The government is pursuing a strategy of globalisation by stealth. It wants to revive the flagging international momentum towards free trade and investment through bilateral trade and investment negotiations. Increasing tensions within the 141-member World Trade Organisation and external pressure on it have left it in bad shape. Bilateral and regional agreements aim to stitch up a web of what can no longer be achieved so easily on a global scale. Successive governments have pursued free trade and investment policies with great zeal, but have ignored the high human costs. Unfortunately, in spite of a change of rhetoric, the Labour/Alliance government seems beholden to the same economic fundamentals when it comes to international trade policy," says Arena spokesperson, Leigh Cookson.

"Like the Singapore New Zealand Closer Economic Partnership, the government is refusing to release the text of the agreement before it is signed. This is unacceptable. But since the Singapore agreement is the model for future deals, we can have a fair idea of what the Hong Kong agreement covers."

"The Hong Kong deal threatens the survival of New Zealand's remaining textiles, clothing and footwear industry, and opens the door further to transnational corporations who manufacture in China to get their product into New Zealand tariff-free. It opens the way for litigation by investors against the effects and existence of laws and regulations that protect our environment and economic development, resulting in multi-million dollar compensation payments and possible reversal of local and central government policies. It will also add further pressure to commercialise our social services like education, health, public broadcasting, waste disposal and water," said Ms Cookson.

"The government should call off negotiations with Hong Kong for a free trade and investment agreement, and withdraw from existing Investment Promotion and Protection agreements with Hong Kong, China, Chile and Argentina. It should declare a moratorium on negotiating further trade and investment agreements until an independent study and inquiry incorporating wide public consultation and debate has been held on the cost and benefits of trade and investment agreements New Zealand is already party to" she said.

Wednesday's public meeting starts at 7.30 pm, Knox Hall, on the corner of Bealey Ave and Victoria Street, Christchurch. Media are welcome to attend.

The Arena report, "Globalisation By Stealth", by Bill Rosenberg can be viewed at www.arena.org.nz

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