"Come In And Help Yourselves"
8 June 2004
Foreign Investment Review Message To Transnationals
"Come In And Help Yourselves"
The Government is conducting a behind closed doors review of the foreign investment regime. Some of the recommendations from officials, principally Treasury, to Dr Cullen, have been leaked to the media. It is blatantly obvious that those recommendations are intended to remove any remaining oversight of the foreign control of New Zealand’s economy.
There is some tightening up of requirements for buying "sensitive" land, specifically coastal land, but this small mercy is greatly outweighed by the other recommendations that abolish the Overseas Investment Commission (OIC), raise the threshold for approval for company takeovers from $50 million to $250 million, and remove requirements for approval of land sales of more than $10m in value and/or less than five hectares in size (which means the central business districts).
The Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) has always said that the OIC’s job could be done by a monkey with a rubber stamp. But we do not support its abolition. On the contrary, we urge the Government to give it real teeth and to strengthen the oversight regime. If these recommendations become law, then hugely significant corporate takeovers (such as Toll buying out Tranz Rail) will be subject to no more special scrutiny than if they had been two New Zealand companies. Dr Cullen says that the OIC has not turned down any company takeovers for years. This proves our point exactly – that the current regime is far too feeble and needs substantial strengthening, not abolition.
The annual Roger Award For The Worst Transnational Corporation proves the case, year in and year out, for greater oversight of these corporate miscreants. Under an open door policy, we can expect to host many more of these foreign so-called investors (they actually cost New Zealand considerably more than they contribute).
And the leaked officials’ recommendations prove what we’ve said all along – that "free trade" agreements seriously restrict NZ’s sovereignty. The paper cites the Government’s commitments under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Singapore/NZ Closer Economic Partnership as inhibiting NZ’s ability to set restrictions on foreign investment. This proves that NZ should get off the "free trade" rollercoaster before it’s too late.
We urge the Government to hold a proper public inquiry into the foreign investment regime, not a secret review with a pre-determined outcome. And for that regime to be significantly strengthened, not weakened or abolished. New Zealand is our home – we must reserve the right to pick and choose who comes into it. And we must set the conditions as to how they must behave when they’re here.
CAFCA Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand firstname.lastname@example.org www.cafca.org.nz