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ARENA: Chile President Arrives Tuesday

ARENA: Chile President Arrives Tuesday

Ricardo Lagos, President of Chile, arrives on tomorrow for a two day state visit to New Zealand. Rapa Nui sculptor Tevo Pakarati is carving an Easter Island Moai at Te Papa in honour of the occasion. This gift from Chile to the City of Wellington seems likely to be the only positive result of the visit, according to the Action, Research and Education Network of Aoteraoa (ARENA).

"President Lagos visit is a rescue mission for the free trade and investment negotiations between Chile and New Zealand", said Prue Hyman on behalf of ARENA.

These have reportedly stalled in the face of opposition from Chilean farmers to even greater control by Fonterra's unpopular subsidiary Saprole and threats to their livelihoods from competing New Zealand products.

"The gift of Moai symbolises the Janus face of trade liberalisation", said Prue Hyman. "Indigenous Chileans, particularly Mapuche from the South, are likely to be the biggest losers from this agreement - just as Maori workers suffered most from tariff cuts on car assembly and clothing".

"The recent history of our two countries is something to retreat from, not to celebrate. The fourth Labour government, with its radical neoliberal policies, was dubbed "Chile without the Gun". Today's Third Way governments of Lagos and Clark continue that legacy under the spurious slogan of "globalisation with a social face". In both countries inequality and real poverty have intensified."

Prue Hyman urged the political leaders to take this opportunity to set the deal aside and rethink their relationship. "This is simply another of circuit of the globalisation merry go round, powered by ideology rather than people's needs and socio-political realities."

The New Zealand government admits it expects no real trade gains from the deal. The agreement has three main goals: a pragamatic insurance policy against being left out as the World Trade Organisation collapses; to gain a foothold in America via Chile and Asia via New Zealand; and the expansion of the Fonterra and the (largely foreign owned) 'New Zealand' forestry companies, which have a long history of exploitation in Chile.

'ARENA calls on the two leaders to put their people before their ideology and the interests of global capital', said Prue Hyman.

"Neither government has properly investigated what these agreement mean for their people. That is why ARENA, along with a Chilean social justice agency, is preparing our own study that highlights the negative economic and social impacts which our governments have ignored."

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