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Reality check needed on a US-NZ free-trade deal

Reality check needed on a US-NZ free-trade deal

"Those who claim that New Zealand will open the doors to US agricultural markets need a reality check," says Dr Bill Rosenberg, on behalf of the Action, Research and Education Network of Aotearoa (ARENA).

"The United States Congress has recently passed a ten year, $170 billion package of support for its farmers. Most of that will go to politically powerful US agribusinesses. No one should be under any illusion that the US government will not put that constituency first in negotiating any so-called ‘free trade’ deal.

"We also need to ask why the US would even be interested in talking to New Zealand," Dr Rosenberg suggests. "The unconscionable trade-off of ‘guns for butter’ would only be a small part of their game plan. The US is not going to talk to New Zealand unless there are real gains for their transnational companies, especially in investment and services.

"Each year the US Trade representative publishes a hit-list of policies and laws it wants New Zealand to change. These include Overseas Investment Commission vetting of foreign investment, the Pharmac drug purchasing policy, the GM moratorium, Fonterra, other export marketing boards, and much more.

"It’s already clear from the opening gambits in negotiations with Australia that they will demand guaranteed rights for US investors. Similar provisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have forced massive compensation payments to investors where government health or environment regulations have reduced the profitability of those investments," Dr Rosenberg warned.

"Successive New Zealand governments have already left the country’s economy, infrastructure and services deeply exposed through ill-considered free trade deals. This has to stop now. If New Zealand has any hope of developing into a strong, independent nation we need to look at strengthening our own economic capacity and reserving the right to make our own laws and policies to meet our local priorities."

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