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GATT Watchdog's Choudry Issues Message in HongKong

GATT Watchdog activist, Aziz Choudry spoke this week with Mr KK Chan, the principal trade officer from the special team on the Hong Kong New Zealand Closer Economic Partnership agreement at the Hong Kong Department of Trade and Industrial Development.

Mr Chan said that it was not possible to release a copy of the text of the controversial free trade and investment agreement prior to the conclusion of the agreement as this was the position of both parties.

"I explained to him some of the controversy around the deal in New Zealand, and that the New Zealand government was refusing to release the text."

"This agreement is truly 'globalisation by stealth'. In fact, having spoken with many trade unionists, social justice activists and media reporters, it is clear that few people in Hong Kong are even aware of its existence."

"The New Zealand government claims that this agreement is boosting New Zealand's profile in Hong Kong. That is clearly not the case."

"I met yesterday with Mr Lee Cheuk Yan, General Secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and a member of Hong Kong's legislative council. He told me that the HKCTU had put in a request to the Hong Kong Department of Trade and Industrial Development for further information on the agreement but had not received a reply yet."

"It is clear that unions and other workers' organisations in Hong Kong share our concerns about the privatisation and contracting out of services by governments, and the way in which international trade and investment agreements help to promote this economic agenda. Obviously there is a lot of concern here about the implications for local jobs and livelihoods as a result of China's economic reforms as it prepares to join the World Trade Organisation. And behind Hong Kong's prosperous facade is a growing gap between rich and poor, less secure employment, and rising unemployment levels"

"Hong Kong is already a trans-shipment point for much Chinese product, especially in the sensitive textile clothing and footwear sectors. Mr Lee confirmed that it is almost impossible to police rules of origin agreements to ensure that product marked as being of Hong Kong origin is not merely made in mainland China and transhipped through Hong Kong."

"If the New Zealand government objects to critics of the agreement using the term "globalisation by stealth" to refer to it, then they, and their Hong Kong counterparts should come to an immediate arrangement to release the text before negotiations are concluded." said Mr Choudry, who returned to New Zealand on Wednesday night after speaking at a conference in Hong Kong opposed to corporate globalisation.

Last weekend's conference coincided with the start of the World Economic Forum East Asia Summit in the city.

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