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P.M. Misleads Union Movement Over China FTA

P.M. Misleads Union Movement Over China Free Trade Agreement Claims Clothing Union

"Prime Minister Helen Clark has mislead our union and the whole union movement by telling the Council of Trade Union conference last year that New Zealand had no intention of signing a free trade agreement with China," said Maxine Gay, Secretary of the Clothing Workers Union.

"Our union is "gutted" by today's announcement from Helen Clark and Trade Minister Jim Sutton that New Zealand and Chinese officials have agreed on a Trade and Economic Cooperation Framework between the two counties. We are told that this framework has as its key element the agreement that NZ and China will begin negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement next year," Maxine Gay said.

"The news itself is bad enough, but what makes it worse is that the negotiations have been going on for some time under a cloak of deceit.

"The Textile, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) industry is just starting to pick itself up after years of unilateral tariff reduction and the recent government announcement to reduce TCF tariffs to 10% by 2009. While one part of government is working with the TCF unions and industry to help the industry and its workers adjust to the new situation another part of government is shifting the goal posts once more," said Maxine Gay.

"China is such a dominant player in NZ's clothing imports that a free trade agreement with China will be the same as abolishing tariffs on all clothing imports. Yet at that same time NZ manufacturers are still facing tariff duties of around 30% on clothing exports to the US or the EU.

"This is economic madness," said Maxine Gay. "And the people who will pay the price in terms of job loss or real wage cuts are predominantly women workers in many of the secondary centres of NZ."

Maxine Gay laughs at the governments offer to consult "stakeholders" over the proposed FTA. "First, why were we not consulted prior to agreement on the NZ China Trade and Economic Consultation Framework. Second, it is simply not possible to have a constructive dialogue with Trade Minister Sutton. Whenever we have a different view to Jim Sutton, all we get is abuse. He refuses to debate the issues."

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