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Human rights diminished in NZ-China FTA

Human rights diminished in NZ-China FTA

Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed with China further weakens already minimal labour rights obligations that exist in all other New Zealand trade agreements.

The exclusion of a standard reference (1) to prevent the importation of the products of prison labour is of particular concern. This at a time when prison labour within Re-education through Labour camps (2) is, like the use of child labour, on the increase in China.

AINZ spokesperson Margaret Taylor, says "Child, slave and prison labour, the lack of free and independent trade unions and the trade in organs from death penalty prisoners in China are issues Amnesty International has regularly raised with the New Zealand government."

"To date we have received no adequate response as to how these issues will be addressed and this FTA raises more questions than it answers about these human rights concerns."

Such abuses already contradict the fundamental principles of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which both New Zealand and China reaffirm within the FTA. This agreement also appears to require lower labour standards compared to existing trade agreements. (3)

Furthermore, the proposed tight Select Committee submission process reinforces the lack of transparency and consultation, in evidence prior to the signing. Indeed the lack of a requirement for any public consultation is also of concern.

"A reasonable timeframe to allow for adequate submissions to be made would better reflect the high level of public interest in this agreement," says Taylor.

While welcoming assurances that New Zealand will continue to raise human rights concerns in China, Amnesty questions why the ability to do so is not now required at a ministerial level. (4)

"Sadly, New Zealand has set a weak global precedent in terms of trade and human rights and this seriously undermines the international labour standards it has committed to uphold."

--


For Reference:

(1) Four existing agreements allow New Zealand to take measures in connection with the products of prison labour:
- New Zealand and Singapore on a Closer Economic Partnership, Article 71.
- Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement, Article 18(l).
- New Zealand-Thailand Closer Economic Partnership Agreement, Article 15.1(e)
- Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement between Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, Article 11.22

(2) Re-education Through Labour (RTL) camps are a form of detention imposed without charge or trial for up to four years, and used against people deemed by the Chinese police to have committed offences not serious enough to be punished under the Criminal Law.

(3) The preamble of the NZ-China Free Trade Agreement Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Labour Cooperation provides for "sharing a common aspiration to promote sound labour policies and practices in New Zealand and China"; whereas the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement acknowledges that all parties share a similar commitment to a high level standard of labour laws, policies, and practices." (emphasis added)

(4) NZ-China Free Trade Agreement (MOU) on Labour Cooperation, Article 4.

ENDS

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