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Free Trade - Embarrassing moments from Helen Clark

7 April 2008

Media Release:
Free Trade - Embarrassing moments from Helen Clark's past

Today Helen Clark is in Beijing as the head of the New Zealand delegation for the signing of a free trade agreement with China giving trade preference to the Beijing’s brutal dictatorship.

Here are a few reminders of a more principled Helen Clark before she became Prime Minister.

* “I am very concerned that the National Government has chosen a path of ingratiation with those in Asia whose human rights record is poor”. (Speech to Auckland University Centre for Peace Studies, Oct. 1994.)

* “Perhaps some of the players in the debate are driven more by self interest than by genuine concern for the rights of workers in developing countries, but that is not an argument for ignoring the real issue.” (Speech to Auckland University Centre for Peace Studies, Oct 1994.)

* “The collapse of apartheid did not occur in the 1990s without significant international pressure … the systematic violation of human rights in South Africa was eventually taken very seriously by the international community, but it took many years, through a combination of economic and other sanctions, and diplomatic pressure, to bear fruit”. Speech as leader of Labour Party in 1994)

* “Uncomfortable as it is, New Zealanders do expect their governments to represent our views on human rights breaches - whether they occur in Indonesia, China or anywhere else.” (Speech to NZ Institute of International Affairs, May 1995.)

* “Currying favour by downplaying oppression won’t help.” (Speech to Labour Party Conference, Nov.1998.)

* That is why Mrs Shipley is simply absurd to claim that APEC is unrelated to issues of human rights and democracy. Neglect those issues and your economy will not reach its full potential. Like Sir Robert Muldoon before her, she prefers to build links to oppression while democratic voices are silenced in gaol. She has brought shame on our country.” (Speech to Labour Party Conference, Nov. 1998.

As GPJA pointed out over the weekend the free trade deal has very high costs for New Zealand which include:
* Up to 20,000 more jobs lost in New Zealand (mostly in manufacturing) as tariffs are further phased out and removed. These jobs will be replaced largely by minimum wage jobs in retailing – such as stacking the shelves of the warehouse. (Already the lifting of tariffs has cost 50,000 jobs in New Zealand to Chinese imports alone)
* Turning a blind eye to Chinese workers struggling for the right to organise independent trade unions to improve pay and conditions. Chinese workers work in slave-like conditions where 16 hour days at less than $1 an hour are typical.

* Forced labour and child labour form part of the backbone of the Chinese economy. As many as 5 million children in China work in factories for less that $1 per hour. Likewise the forced labour of as many as seven million Chinese prisoners.
* Ignoring even the most basic international rules such as the conventions of the International Labour organisation which China has refuses to ratify.
* A slap in the face to Tibetans struggling against China’s 49 year occupation of Tibet and the exploitation of its natural resources by Chinese companies and international corporations


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