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Real Issues No. 296 - Free Trade Agreement

Real Issues No. 296 - Free Trade Agreement, Immigration, NCEA Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 296 10 April 2008 www.maxim.org.nz

Significant times for China Meeting the challenges of immigration The right information

IN THE NEWS An ethical move for superannuation Matters of the Family Court IN THE NEWS

Significant Times For China

With all the debate in recent days over China's human rights record and their treatment of Tibet, it is undeniable that they are becoming more significant on the world stage. The dramatic shift in their economy from the late 1970's soviet-style central planning, to a relatively liberal market-oriented economy now, has positioned them as a country on the move.

These are halcyon days for the Chinese economy, which is now the second largest in the world according to the latest World Bank estimate (the United States is still ahead in that competition) and continues to grow at a frenetic 9.4 percent per annum. In contrast, New Zealand's economy is sitting on a stately 3.1 percent. While China still has numerous problems with governance and rights injustices, it is to be hoped that opening their economy up further could eventually help resolve some of these issues.

The historic free trade deal agreed this week is, by and large, good news for New Zealanders. Not surprisingly, we stand to reap the greatest benefits through our agricultural exports. The Chinese market for luxury goods, such as dairy, fruit and bottled wine, is growing in step with China's increasing number of nouveau riche. This can only mean good news for Fonterra and our drought-beleaguered dairy farmers, as well as our world-renowned vineyards and orchards. The flip side of the coin is that the New Zealand consumer will have even greater access to the highly competitive consumer goods that China relentlessly produces. Despite these benefits, the removal of import tariffs is not necessarily good for our local manufacturers. Fisher & Paykel has already predicted severe threats to their domestic business as cheap products from China get even cheaper. Nonetheless, the overall effect on the New Zealand economy will be positive to the tune of $225 to $350 million dollars a year in export revenue alone.

But where does this place us on China's human rights issues? As the first developed country to sign such a deal with the Chinese government, we also receive a healthy dose of goodwill alongside the economic benefits. From our new position of most favoured nation status we have the potential to be a powerful force for good on China's human rights issues. From the context of this new relationship we must take our responsibility to engage in meaningful dialogue and encourage China's development as a free and just nation seriously.

Visit the New Zealand - China Free Trade Agreement Website http://chinafta.govt.nz/

Meeting The Challenges Of Immigration

A report released this week by the Asia New Zealand Foundation takes a closer look at the statistics on Asian immigration gathered from the 2006 Census, and considers the impact that this is having on both Auckland and New Zealand as a whole. With research showing that diversity can breed fear, and consequently isolation, growing knowledge of each others cultures could help us meet the challenges of immigration better.

The report Diverse Auckland: The Face of New Zealand in the 21st Century? raises the issue of 'spatial settlement patterns,' showing the spread of different Asian ethnic groups across suburbs of Auckland. With the exception of smaller, 'distinctive' communities, many Asian groups are widely spread across the city. Immigrants from China, for example, live in areas ranging from the North Shore, Howick and East Tamaki, to inner city suburbs such as Epsom, Remuera, Mount Albert and Mount Roskill. These areas cross a wide range of the city, representing different lifestyle choices and various socio-economic areas.

Although the media have welcomed the apparent dispersal of Asian communities across Auckland, the report itself places the caveat that there is still 'a significant level of clustering' of Asian groups. The Chinese population, while widely spread, is by far the largest Asian group, which may in itself be the reason for the greater distribution. Smaller groups, such as Cambodians or Vietnamese, are still separate and distinct, usually clustered around cultural facilities.

The report gives us hope, however, that with the passage of time we will come to know and appreciate each other more. In the end, this is how we will build even stronger relationships across ethnic differences, and develop a full appreciation of our common humanity.

Read Diverse Auckland: The Face of New Zealand in the 21st Century? http://www.asianz.org.nz/files/AsiaNZ%20Outlook%206.pdf


More Maori and Pasifika pupils are gaining an NCEA qualification during their time at secondary school than before, but there is still a 25 to 30 percentage point difference between their rate of acquisition and that of Asian and European pupils. The problem with boys generally lagging behind girls also remains. These are some of the major conclusions which NZQA has drawn from its analysis of NCEA data for the cohort of pupils which left school in 2007 and from data comparing different pupil cohort years over three successive years between 2005 and 2007.

Some people are calling for NCEA results to be reported so that they can be used to compare the performance of schools. At present NCEA results are reported based on the number of pupils in the school, not those sitting the NCEA. This skews the results for schools that offer alternative examinations. Regardless of how NCEA results are reported, comparing schools based solely on NCEA grades does not allow for the value added by a school to be taken into consideration. Parents need more information about schools so they can make informed choices. But rather than calling for NCEA data to be used in this way, we need information that measures the value a school adds to a pupil's achievement; this could be obtained by implementing a system of national benchmarks and reporting.

It is positive that we now have enough data about pupils' performances at the NCEA to be able to compare the performance of different groups of pupils across time, and to see how different pupils in each year level are doing. Comparisons may be made and problems attended to, but we must not forget that parents need all the information they can get to make the right decisions about their children's schooling.

Read 'An Analysis of Student Performance in NCEA, 2005 - 07' http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/qualifications/ssq/statistics/commentary07.html

Read 'National Qualifications Framework Statistics' http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/qualifications/ssq/statistics/index.do

Read Maxim Institute's Policy Paper, 'Fixing the NCEA' http://www.maxim.org.nz/index.cfm/policy___research/article?id=1102



New Zealand's superannuation fund, NZ Super, has just announced its intention to stop investing funds in companies involved in the production of cluster munitions. Civilians are often unintended victims of cluster bombs, which not only target military objects, but spread explosives over a wide area. Cluster munitions also provide a threat to local populations in the aftermath of war, as unexploded fragments of the bombs can remain in fields and cities. In February, New Zealand hosted a conference that is one step towards an international treaty to be finalised in Dublin in May, which aims to end the production of cluster munitions. NZ Super is waiting until the government signs that treaty, before they will actually implement their ban.


The Family Courts Matters Bill has been considered by the Social Services Committee, who recommends that it be passed with certain amendments. The Government Bill would make changes to various aspects of the Family Court, in an attempt to increase the transparency, efficacy and importance of the Court.

Many of the changes made would be procedural, such as widening the scope for journalistic reporting of cases or removing the ban on Judges wearing gowns. These changes could go some way towards reinvigorating public confidence and respect for the Family Court system. Increased reporting of cases could help lift some of the current problems with transparency, while Judges wearing gowns in the Court would reflect the formality and gravity of the cases being heard.

Read the Family Courts Matters Bill http://www.parliament.nz/NR/rdonlyres/72280F59-F7EF-4108-A1AA-23700EAACBFB/81212/DBSCH_SCR_4019_5896.pdf


'The awakening of the people of China to the possibilities under free government is the most significant, if not the most momentous, event of our generation.'

Woodrow Wilson

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Maxim Institute's regular email publication, Real Issues, provides thought-provoking analysis of developments in policy and culture in New Zealand and around the world. You can express you views on any of the articles featured in Real Issues by writing a letter to the editor. A selection of the best letters will be posted each week on Maxim Institute's website .

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