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Key challenges of jobs, climate change on agenda

Key challenges of jobs, climate change on agenda at alternative trade strategy hui 19-20 October

Discussions on trade strategy in New Zealand usually focus on market access for primary products. Yet today’s free trade agreements have 20-plus chapters that can also negatively affect people’s lives, from health and rights on the Internet to financial stability and Treaty rights.

A two-day hui on 19 and 20 October will look at What an Alternative and Progressive Trade Strategy Should Look Like. The event at the Fale Pasifika at the University of Auckland will be live streamed on itsourfuture.org.nz/hui-2018.

The hui is co-sponsored by a number of community organisations and international NGOs, including Greenpeace and Oxfam, the Council of Trade Unions and other unions. Ten panels range from geopolitics and the international economy to health, Tiriti-based relationships and reinvigorating the local.

CTU Secretary Sam Huggard sees the hui as an opportunity for ‘unions to work with other community organisations on a charting a new deal for trade that works better for communities and working people. Working people have always supported greater interactions with other countries, and trade. We just want international commerce agreements to serve our interests, not make our interests subservient to international commerce’.

Environment, resources and climate change will be a key theme. Oncologist Dr George Laking will contribute to the health panel on behalf of Ora Taiao: the New Zealand Climate and Health Council.

For Dr Laking, ‘climate change is the number one threat to health in the 21st century — but it is also our best opportunity to change the social and environmental determinants of health for the better. A survivable world must also be a fairer world. New Zealand is a leader in world trade, because our economy depends on it. So we must also be thought leaders in the evolution to a new, more progressive way of trading.’

Greenpeace Aotearoa’s Executive Director Dr Russel Norman, a panelist in the session on trade in a sustainable world, echoes those sentiments.

‘We need robust global governance arrangements because many of the environmental challenges we face are global in nature. “Trade” agreements, as sub set of global governance agreements, need to support and enable global and national action to solve environmental problems, not block progress as they have so often in the past.’

The hui will also have a strong development dimension, with several participants from the South Pacific bringing their insights on gender, trade justice, climate change and migration.

‘We see great opportunities for trade to protect and uphold human rights, halt and respond to climate change, and grow a prosperous and peaceful world. We're looking forward to hearing from the wide-range of participants about trade that leaves no-one behind,’ says Jo Spratt, Oxfam's Advocacy and Campaign's Director.

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