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Trade Sanctions Against NZ Over Environmental Laws

October 18, 2001 - Wellington MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

WTO could impose trade sanctions against NZ over environmental laws

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society is concerned that the World Trade Organisation could impose draconian trade sanctions if it does not like New Zealand's environmental laws.

Forest and Bird was responding to claims by the Seafood Industry Council that a ban on trout imports could lead to trade sanctions against New Zealand fish and shellfish exports under World Trade Organisation rules.

Forest and Bird researcher Geoff Keey said that environmental concerns must be considered paramount. "Trade is based on natural resources. The protection and sustainable management of natural resources should therefore be the basis of trade decisions, not the other way around."

"The World Trade Organisation has free trade as its central goal, not environmental protection. It has a poor record when it comes to conflicts between trade and the environment," Mr Keey said.

"In one case Mexico claimed that a United States environmental law that protects dolphins from being killed in tuna fisheries was a barrier to trade," Mr Keey said. "The United States was forced to choose between allowing fishing practices that killed dolphins, or facing trade sanctions. The United States weakened their Marine Mammal Protection Act protecting dolphins. If an economy the size of the United States backed down because it did not want to face trade sanctions, how would New Zealand cope?" Mr Keey asked.

"Biosecurity is vital to New Zealand's environment, economy and society, and this too can be compromised by challenges under the WTO and free trade agreements," Mr Keey said.

Forest and Bird recently wrote to the government urging the government to review international trade and investment agreements to ensure that they did not undermine New Zealand's environmental laws.

"As New Zealanders, we are responsible for preserving our unique and precious environment. By upholding high environmental and biosecurity standards we also make New Zealand a safe trading nation. We should strive towards those goals, not join a race to the bottom of international standards."

Contact: Geoff Keey, Researcher, Tel: 03 366 6317 (w) 03 365 9455 (h)

Barry Weeber, Senior Conservation Officer, Tel: 04 385 7374, 025 622 7369

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