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Picket Outside "Farcical" Chch Govt Trade Briefing

25 October 2001

Picket To Be Held Outside "Farcical" Christchurch Government Trade Briefing

GATT Watchdog is organising a picket of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade briefing on World Trade Organisation Trade Strategy outside the boardroom of the Canterbury Manufacturers' Association, corner of Cambridge Terrace and Manchester Street, at 2pm tomorrow Friday, October 26.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has announced that it will hold a briefing in Christchurch tomorrow on progress towards launching a new WTO round at Doha. The Ministry's intention is to outline the New Zealand government's rationale for supporting an extension of the existing free trade regime."

"This is the latest in a series of so-called briefings and consultations on trade and investment agreements. They are a direct response to the growing opposition to the free market, free trade and investment agenda, and a cosmetic exercise in manufacturing the appearance of consent" says Leigh Cookson, of GATT Watchdog.

"MFAT claims this is public consultation. In reality ordinary people have no real say or influence over the government's position at the WTO. These meetings are little more than a propaganda effort to sell the government's zealous commitment to free trade and investment."

We have seen from previous consultation exercises, like those on the Singapore and Hong Kong free trade and investment agreements that MFAT is not interested in debating the wisdom of free trade and investment agreements. The government has already made its decisions. It is like asking people to name their poison rather than giving them a choice whether they should be poisoned at all."

"At APEC last weekend, Helen Clark made it very clear that New Zealand still sees itself at the forefront of commitments to free trade and investment. The next WTO Ministerial starts in only a fortnight. Tomorrow's briefing is merely an 11th hour cosmetic afterthought to attempt to stave off criticism of the anti-democratic way in which New Zealand continues to pursue discredited free market goals. This policy has failed to deliver real benefits to the majority of the population".

"New Zealand continues to put itself at the extreme end of trade and investment liberalisation in the positions the government takes in international agreements. The WTO promotes the same kinds of free market policies which the Labour-led government was elected to reject, and which once again puts the interests of big business before people. The government should declare a moratorium on negotiating any further trade and investment agreements instead of clinging to a discredited free market ideology."

"This trade briefing is an utter farce. We will not participate in the government's insulting charm offensive and will take the debate on these issues to the streets and back into our communities" says Ms Cookson.


GATT Watchdog is working with a number of other organisations planning education and action activities opposed to the WTO in November, including a protest on Friday November 9 in Christchurch, the first day of the WTO Ministerial Meeting to be held in Qatar or Singapore.

For further comment please contact Leigh Cookson, GATT Watchdog, ph (03) 3396341 or 025 6627174

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