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Minority Government must think again on trade

21 July 2000


Minority Government must think again on trade

The Green Party is urging the minority Labour led Government to reconsider its endorsement of the former National Government's trade liberalisation stance.

The call follows revelations that the new Government has confirmed its commitment to liberalisation in a statement to G8 Summit which opened in Okinawa Japan today.

"Labour should stop parroting National's free trade mantra," said Green Party Co-Leader Rod Donald. "At the political level they don't seem to realise that they are a minority government with a coalition partner which is almost as sceptical of free trade as the Green Party.

"At a practical level they refuse to acknowledge that not only has free trade failed to deliver the benefits previous Governments claimed it would but also that embracing free trade contradicts and undermines its own economic development strategies such as regional development and the new apprenticeship scheme.

"The government seems so desperate to pursue the free trade agenda that it is prepared to consider enormous concessions to get an agreement with Singapore as the first step to a wider South East Asian free trade zone.

"Not only does the Singapore Government want to be insulated from any possible impact of Treaty of Waitangi settlements, which would give overseas investors a potential advantage over local businesses, but it is also prepared to cut the local content quota below the threshold we have with Australia.

"Allowing exports from Singapore to only have 40% Singaporean content would give back door entry for Asian sweatshop goods into New Zealand and make a mockery of the Labour Government's recent tariff freeze," he said.

The Singaporean's want the local content quota down to 20%. Goods imported from Australia under CER have to have 50% local content.

"If trade negotiations Minister Jim Sutton succumbs to Singaporean demands it could spell the end of what's left of New Zealand's clothing industry, destroying many businesses and putting 20,000 workers on the economic scrap heap.

The Green Party questions the Government's statement to the G8 summit claiming that recent international studies have demonstrated that "free and open trade and international trade and investment have benefited development", saying the evidence is open to challenge.

"If the Government is really serious about giving the third world a hand up they would support the international call for the immediate cancellation of the debts of the world's poorest countries, we have written to the Government seeking their support for the Jubilee 2000 call for 'debt cancellation', he said.

ENDS

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