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Tariffs - now walk the talk

Media release
1 October 2003

Tariffs - now walk the talk

The decision to resume tariff reductions will certainly keep New Zealand at the forefront of those few countries capable of achieving APEC targets, says Business NZ Chief Executive Simon Carlaw. "And while it does not deliver any competitive advantage over Australia, it should keep New Zealand and Australia broadly in step, which is important for CER.

"The reductions will kick in sooner than many assume. Contrary to most media commentary, the timetable actually starts in 2005 not 2006, with the first main area for elimination - 'specific tariffs' - bringing big change to the clothing, textiles, footwear and carpet sectors.

"Unlike Australia, New Zealand has not actually spent much on transitional programmes for these sectors. Much has been said about moving to higher value products, but for this to happen there is a critical mass of skills that needs to be nurtured through the next five years in order to assist those whose age, skill levels or location may otherwise make the unemployment benefit their only realistic option.

"A strategy to help retain needed skills in New Zealand need not cost as much as paying the dole to those affected - and could bring more value for everyone.

"Without a skill-retention strategy, some sector-specific skills will be lost for good. For example, pulling the rug on the T-shirt making part of the clothing industry will end up reducing the pool of cutters, machinists and other skilled labour that high-end fashion designers also need.

"We need a strategy for retaining those skills - not hand-outs and picking winners, but a plan that supports rather than inhibits career pathways and new enterprises in affected sectors. There is now a need to deliver some effective action capable of making a real impact on regional development and future economic growth."

ENDS

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