Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Govt in shambles over WTO services negotiations

Government in shambles over WTO services negotiations

“Six months ago the government received ‘requests’ from other WTO members to commit more services to the free trade rules of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). With ten weeks to go before it has to reply, it still hasn’t released its promised ‘consultation’ document”, reports Professor Jane Kelsey on behalf of Action, Research and Education Network of Aotearoa (ARENA).

The current round of GATS negotiations began in Geneva in early 2000. The initial deadline for tabling ‘requests’ by WTO members of each other was 30 June 2002. The deadline for initial responses is 31 March 2003.

“First, we were told it would be posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) website sometime last week, but when depended on staffing. Then it was delayed until Monday of this week. Then Tuesday. Then it was being rewritten and would appear later that day. Then it was to be up on the website on Wednesday.”

“Now we are told it won’t be released until around Tuesday or Wednesday next week, after the Prime Minister has had time to consider it.”

“We know that the US and EC are likely to have ‘requested’ the removal of all restrictions on foreign direct investment in New Zealand’s services, and binding commitments on environmental, energy and postal services, so the stakes are high.”

The delays come after contradictory statements from Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton and Prime Minister Helen Clark on Morning Report on 6 December last year.

"While Sutton insists that problems with the GATS are in our imagination, Helen Clark has recognised the potentially serious consequences for the Government’s right to implement its policies and regulate in the national interest. The prohibition on reintroducing compulsory local content quotas is the clearest example.

“The UK Government got its act together and put out an, albeit inadequate, document on 10 October and gave people three months to respond. People complained loudly that this simply wasn’t long enough. The EC has had to extend the response date to its consultation because people said the same thing.

“If the NZ version is ever released, how long are they planning to give people to analyse it, consider their response and write their submission,” Professor Kelsey asks.

“The situation has become farcical. The Government should bite the bullet and tell the WTO that it won’t be submitting a response by 31 March. It should then engage in the kind of debate about who has the right to regulate New Zealand’s services – the debate we should have had before the GATS was first signed back in 1994”

To help inform that debate, ARENA has prepared a 140-page guide to understanding the GATS agreement and its implications for such basic services as education, health, environment, retailing and post in New Zealand. Serving Whose Interests? will be released in late January. But will the Government have released their document by then?

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines


Sector Opposes Bill: Local Government Bill Timeframe Extended

The Minister of Local Government Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga has asked the Select Committee to extend the report back date for the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 2). More>>


Breed Laws Don’t Work: Vets On New National Dog Control Plan

It is pleasing therefore to see Louise Upston Associate Minister for Local Government calling for a comprehensive solution... However, relying on breed specific laws to manage dog aggression will not work. More>>


Not Waiting On Select Committee: Green Party Releases Medically-Assisted Dying Policy

“Adults with a terminal illness should have the right to choose a medically assisted death,” Green Party health spokesperson Kevin Hague said. “The Green Party does not support extending assisted dying to people who aren't terminally ill because we can’t be confident that this won't further marginalise the lives of people with disabilities." More>>


General Election Review: Changes To Electoral Act Introduced

More effective systems in polling places and earlier counting of advanced votes are on their way through proposed changes to our electoral laws, Justice Minister Amy Adams says. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Our Posturing At The UN

In New York, Key basically took an old May 2 Washington Post article written by Barack Obama, recycled it back to the Americans, and still scored headlines here at home… We’ve had a double serving of this kind of comfort food. More>>


Treaty Settlements: Bills Delayed As NZ First Pulls Support

Ngāruahine, Te Atiawa and Taranaki are reeling today as they learnt that the third and final readings of each Iwi’s Historical Treaty Settlement Bills scheduled for this Friday, have been put in jeopardy by the actions of NZ First. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Damage De-Regulation Is Doing To Fisheries And Education, Plus Kate Tempest

Our faith in the benign workings of the market – and of the light-handed regulation that goes with it – has had a body count. Back in 1992, the free market friendly Health Safety and Employment Act gutted the labour inspectorate and turned forestry, mining and other workplace sites into death traps, long before the Pike River disaster. More>>

Get More From Scoop



Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news