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Deals bringing Burma horrors closer to home

Friday 10 October 2008

Free trade deals bringing Burma horrors closer to home, says Alliance

The Alliance Party says an international trade union campaign on the plight of Burmese workers is a embarrassing reminder that New Zealand is actively signing up to free trade deals involving the Burmese regime.

Alliance Party trade spokesperson Victor Billot says a new documentary from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) graphically illustrates the horrifying brutality of the Burmese regime, with which New Zealand is involved in free trade deals.

Mr Billot says the issue is closer to home than many New Zealanders realized.

"There have been numerous incidents in New Zealand waters in recent years where Burmese seafarers and fishermen have been mistreated aboard vessels in New Zealand waters, and in some cases have jumped ship."

He says the issue is one where the plight of impoverished workers is ignored in favour of the promise of profits.

New Zealand has recently announced free trade deals with ASEAN, the group of Asian nations that includes Burma, and also Thailand where many Burmese refugees are based.

Mr Billot says the free trade agreement with ASEAN nations makes New Zealand complicit with such regimes.

"The Labour Government and National opposition have committed us to closer economic relations to a regime that butchers workers."

He says the work of organizations such as the Seafarers Union of Burma and the International Transport Workers Federation was vital in exposing the brutal anti-worker nature of such regimes but the issue required Government action.

Mr Billot says that under free trade agreements the use of cross-border labour was becoming increasingly common, where short-term, casualized workers were imported across borders to drive down wages and conditions in a "lose-lose" scenario for workers.

The Alliance has urged rejection of free trade deals.

"As we have seen with the Fonterra debacle and the current global financial collapse, the deregulated, free market capitalist model is failing humanity. New Zealand should take the lead by electing a party that stands for human values and refuses to ignore human rights abuses – the Alliance Party."


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