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Doha Meeting Crushes NZ Govt’s Free Trade Hopes

14 November 2001

The end of the 4th World Trade Organization Ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar today should signal the end of an era in New Zealand’s trade policy, according to Professor Jane Kelsey, an Arena analyst.

“For far too long, successive New Zealand Governments have seen the free trade agenda championed by the WTO as the only way to prosperity. The declaration by the EU at Doha that it will never, ever agree to drop subsidies to European farmers should be enough by itself to start a thoroughgoing policy revamp in Jim Sutton’s ministry.”

'It should be obvious to anyone but the diehard free trade evangelists that the WTO was never going to deliver for NZ farmers, because that’s not who it's set up to serve," said Professor Kelsey. "The divisions within the WTO stem from its total inability to take account of the concerns of anyone but the major powers who dominate the organisation'.”

'It's not just the EU protecting the economic interests of its corporate farmers and the political interests of its member governments from small farmers who feel under threat.'

'New Zealand farmers have seen time and again how the US plays with the WTO rules like a lion toying with a mouse. It decides when it will comply, on what terms. Most of the time it simply makes sure the rules are designed to protect its interests. How can Sutton seriously claim the US as its ally when the Congress has just voted a massive 64% increase in farm subsidies over the next 10 years?'

'The double act of Sutton and WTO Director-General Mike Moore remain obsessed with the holy grail of free trade in agriculture. No one gets to hear about the other deals being pushed at the WTO.

It's time they started spelling out for New Zealanders the threat to public services through the General Agreement on Trade in Services; the denial of access to life saving drugs under the TRIPS agreement on intellectual property; the attempt to revive the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) through talks on investment; and so on.'

Professor Kelsey called on the NZ Government to implement a wide-ranging review of its trade policy. "Such a review must take into account voices from outside the free-trade cheer brigade,” she said. “For too long, New Zealand has been led down the garden path of market liberalization, privatization and the rest of the globalization agenda. At Doha, that path turned into a brick wall."

'It's time the Government opened up the debate about the future economic direction of this country that New Zealanders have been denied for too long. We need a new approach and we need it now.”

CONTACT: Jane Kelsey: (09) 579 1030, 021 765 055
Leigh Cookson (03) 339 6341; 025 662 7174

Jane Kelsey is the author of a series of books on the globalization process, including the best-selling “The NZ Experiment”. She is also Auckland University’s Professor of Law.


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