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Kelsey Attacks NZ's Role In Pacific WTO Accessions

31 May 2004 For Immediate Release

Kelsey Attacks New Zealand’s Role In Pacific WTO Accessions

Speaking at a World Trade Organisation symposium in Geneva on Thursday 27th May, Professor Jane Kelsey from Auckland University and ARENA (Action, Research and Education Network of Aotearoa) condemned the torturous process of accession as ‘one of the WTO’s dirtiest little secrets’.

“While all eyes are fixed on whether the Doha Round will kick into life again, most of what the WTO’s poorer countries are trying to stop has already been forced, arrogantly and invisibly, onto some of the world’s smallest, poorest and most vulnerable countries.”

“Nothing mocks the claim to a Doha ‘development’ agenda, and delegitimates the WTO even further, than the power politics of accession”, she said.

In her paper on the current accession processes of Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga, Professor Kelsey singled out Australia, New Zealand and the US for making unconscionable demands that far exceed those required of existing WTO members, even the rich ones.

Professor Kelsey quoted the objections of a senior Samoan adviser that the supposedly ‘rules based organization’ has no rules. Officials who were intimately involved in Vanuatu’s stalled accession had gone further, saying “the accession process has no rules, except precedent and power, and is the very antithesis of what the members publicly state to be the intention and design of the WTO.”

‘This is not about development. It is bizarre to suggest that the Islands will gain any commercial benefits from a global free market, and the social costs will be enormous.’

Professor Kelsey cited the accession deal that New Zealand has extracted from Tonga. This will promote further dumping of cheap, low quality exports, such as mutton flaps, which the World Health Organisation has blamed for the escalation of diet-related disease. Meanwhile, NZAID is funding health related programmes in Tonga to deal with the damage that these exports cause.

‘The real reason they are being pushed to join the WTO is to lock the Islands into the neoliberal policies that the IMF, Asian Development Bank and Australia and New Zealand are foisting on them.’

‘The Pacific Islands have nothing to gain and everything to lose from joining a club that has the potential to devastate their economies, cultures and societies, and create enormous instability and turmoil in an already unstable region’, Professor Kelsey told the symposium.

(The paper ‘Acceding Countries as Pawns in a Power Play: A Case Study of the Pacific Islands’ is available on http://www.arena.org.nz)

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