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More important than Singapore Free Trade Agreement

17 October 2000

The Green Party has criticised the Government for failing to live up to its commitment to partnership with local government over the Singapore free trade agreement.

At this year's Local Government Conference Prime Minister Helen Clark said, "keeping our word on working closely with local government has taken a high priority, because our partnership with you is one of our top priorities".

However Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff, acting on behalf of Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton, conceded in a written answer to Green MP Rod Donald that neither Local Government New Zealand nor individual councils were part of the "extensive process of public consultation throughout the negotiations on the Singapore FTA". It is understood that Local Government New Zealand had to seek a briefing on the agreement from the minister.

"In his haste to embrace free trade Jim Sutton has failed to carry out Prime Minister Helen Clark's public commitment to the local government sector" said Green Party Co-Leader Rod Donald. "This begs the question: which partnership is more important, free trade with Singapore or a close working relationship with local government?

"Helen Clark said at the conference that her Government sees local government as complementary to central government and it would seek to work closely with local government on the many issues which require joint input.

"Clearly this commitment is hollow when Local Government New Zealand had to state in its submission on the Singapore free trade agreement that it was concerned more time had not been made available to comment on the draft proposal and as a result it had not been able to fully consult with its members nor alert them to the possible implications so that they can make their own submissions.

"After the nine day submission period closed several local bodies did make submissions on the treaty but the Foreign Affairs Select Committee was not prepared to hear them.

"If the Labour Alliance Government is serious about its partnership with local Government it should put the Singapore Free Trade Agreement on hold until it has undertaken a proper consultation process with Local government and addressed the major concerns they have about this proposed agreement," he said.

Note: Copies of LGNZ, and individual council submissions and reports available.

Rod Donald MP 4706660, 025 507183.

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