NZ Trade Policy A Threat To Human Rights
26 August 1999
Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
NZ TRADE POLICY A THREAT TO HUMAN RIGHTS
Mike Moore should certainly be congratulated on his appointment as Director-General of the WTO. He demonstrated rare political skill in his progress from rank-outsider to eventual appointee. With the WTO so much in the news, it is timely to examine New Zealand policy in relation to this increasingly influential organisation.
Last year the WTO issue that won the most press coverage was the decision of New Zealand to support China's application to join the organisation. The Christian Heritage Party believes one of the significant flaws in New Zealand policy relating to the WTO and APEC is the absolute separation of trade and human rights concerns in our relations with other nations. China's application highlighted the fact that no human rights compliance requirement exists for nations wishing to become members.
Numerous other abuses have been reported by the US based "Human Rights in China" organisation in articles and submissions to UN committees. A 1997 factory building collapse in Fujian province, which killed 31 workers and injured 79 is one example: the building had been built completely without building plan approval, building permits or inspections. Research also shows that at a very conservative estimate, China would have five million child labourers, many forced to work in extremely cramped, dangerous or outright abusive conditions. A 1994 report documented the use of political and 'common criminal' prisoners on forced labour from Beijing No.2 Prison making latex gloves for export to the US and other countries.
New Zealand companies, which all have extensive costs associated with health and safety and building compliance, and legitimate restrictions on how they can treat their staff, face unfair competition from Chinese companies with no such costs. Also New Zealand is in effect actively supporting tyranny.
Recently China's totally reprehensible threats to Taiwan, including the threat to fire missiles into Taiwan in retribution for Taiwan Premier Lee Teng-hui's declaration of Taiwanese statehood have been reported. Bullying of this nature should be dealt with, otherwise the bully nation, like bullies in a school playground, will just make more and more demands. By separating trade policy from every other consideration as the New Zealand Government is now doing, we are saying in effect, "It doesn't matter how you are behaving towards your own people, or towards neighbouring countries. We want to trade with you anyway."
The Christian Heritage Party calls for an end to this separation of trade from all other considerations. We should have the moral fortitude to stand with nations that are prepared to behave acceptably as world citizens, and against those who transgress. Our own companies and workers should not be exposed to competition from overseas companies from nations with unacceptable labour laws and human rights conditions.
The Prime Minister has said that the WTO and APEC are not appropriate forums for the raising of human rights concerns. The Christian Heritage Party disagrees. These strong concerns should be raised in every forum, until appropriate changes are made.