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Ignore The Protests - WTO Too Important

1 December 1999

PR135/99

IGNORE THE PROTESTS - WTO TOO IMPORTANT

Federated Farmers Vice President Tom Lambie said that New Zealanders should ignore the WTO protests, as the final result of the WTO talks was far more important to their futures.

Mr Lambie said that while the protests made exciting TV images, the talks were what would help or hinder New Zealand's economy.

"The protesters have a right to make their point. But from New Zealand's perspective, a good start to the next round of trade liberalisation talks is very important. Better trading conditions for our exporters quite literally translates into more jobs for New Zealanders."

"If you look beyond the protests to the underlying importance of the talks, there is no contest. Every New Zealander should be hoping for significant progress to be made."

"A criticism often expressed by demonstrators at the WTO talks in Seattle is that trade reform only benefits big business. However, New Zealand's experience is quite the opposite."

New Zealand's food and timber processing sectors are relatively intensive in the employment of unqualified labour. World trade reform would lift the performance of the export sector, allowing for a rise in wages of low paid workers, and closing the income gap between unqualified and qualified workers in New Zealand.

Given that the agricultural sector provides jobs for 17.7% of New Zealand's total workforce, trade reform would benefit a wide variety of people, especially Maori.

Small businesses have also benefited. Small family firms could be far more successful if they could export without trade barriers or tariffs. The barriers are huge disincentives to beginning to tap into the export markets.

"Another criticism levelled by demonstrators at the WTO is that trade reform would lead to a decline in environmental standards. However, New Zealand's experience with the removal of agricultural subsidies has shown quite the opposite to be the case."

"Agricultural trade is also an important source of income for developing countries. Trade reform would provide a crucial link to economic growth and would raise the standard of living for many developing nations."

ENDS For further information: Tom Lambie 026-113-161


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