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TLN responds to Thai trade agreement critics

Tuesday 6 July

TLN responds to Thai trade agreement critics

New Zealanders have every reason to be enthusiastic about a Closer Economic Partnership Agreement with Thailand said Trade Liberalisation Network, Executive Director, Suse Reynolds.

Reynolds noted the CEP with Thailand was likely to closely mirror the agreement Thailand has just signed with Australia. It makes 95% of all current trade between Australia and Thailand free by 2010.

"This offers tremendous opportunities, not just for our merchandise exporters, but also for our services industry," said Reynolds.

"We all need to ask ourselves about these opportunities, but equally importantly, we need to consider what strategic and financial adjustment will be necessary, as well as the implications for jobs.

While not downplaying the personal impact of job loss, Reynolds noted New Zealand is currently experiencing its lowest unemployment rates in decades so there is no shortage of job opportunities. New Zealand also has a world class social welfare system to help those who take longer to find employment and in some sectors, such as clothing and footwear, the Government is providing funding to assist with job transition.

Reynolds questioned the wisdom of protecting randomly selected jobs at the expense of the rest of New Zealand.

"As tariffs have lowered since the mid-eighties, the average family of four is now saving $700 a year on their clothing bill. Real incomes have improved and it is the poorer parts of our society which have benefited the most," she said.

Turning to criticism of the trade deficit with Thailand, Reynolds said trade deficits with individual countries are irrelevant.

"We are buying what we need from the Thai's and they are buying what they need from us. Any other needs are being met by other countries," she pointed out.

Finally, Reynolds asks whether the Green Party's call to refuse to trade with Thailand would realistically do a thing to improve the lot of "sweatshop" workers and child labourers.

"The TLN shares critics' abhorrence of these practices but one of the most effective means to abolish them is through the economic growth increased trade brings."


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