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Proposed WTO rules could crash grid

5 December 2005

Proposed WTO rules could crash grid, increase oil imports

The next World Trade Organisation negotiation round will consider proposals that, if adopted, will accelerate climate change, deny consumer rights, strain New Zealand's electricity grid and raise Kiwis' energy costs, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

Trade ministers will meet in Hong Kong next week to consider hundreds of calls to remove standards and labelling requirements from consumer goods, many of which would have major effects on NZ consumers. The standards are claimed to be 'non-tariff trade barriers' and fall under the Non-Agricultural Market Access negotiations of the WTO.

"These moves would prevent governments and consumers from being energy efficient, at the very time that the planet needs us all to be reducing our energy use" Ms Fitzsimons says.

"For example, China, South Korea and Argentina want to outlaw energy efficiency standards and mandatory labelling for household appliances such as fridges, water heaters, fluorescent lights and air conditioners.

"New Zealand has minimum efficiency standards for all of these appliances to protect consumers from those that cause big power bills. We also require appliances to be labelled with their actual energy consumption so consumers can choose the most efficient. New Zealanders would lose this protection if the measures pass.

"Flooding the New Zealand market with cheap-to-buy but power-hungry air conditioners could black out Auckland on a hot summer day, so our security of supply would also be affected. More generating stations would be needed to supply the demand from inefficient appliances in households and businesses.

"Meanwhile the US is calling for vehicle taxes related to engine size to be outlawed. They complain they 'inhibit the sale of vehicles with larger engine sizes and provide competitive advantage to producers of vehicles with smaller engine sizes.'

"This is a truly bizarre proposal clearly aimed at forcing US gas guzzlers on to other countries.

"It would prevent measures to encourage a more efficient vehicle fleet, increase climate-changing emissions of carbon dioxide and increase our oil import bill and the cost of filling your tank at a time when prices are going through the roof. The Greens' proposal, endorsed by the Business Council for Sustainable Development, for a feebate system of higher registration charges for inefficient vehicles that enter the country from now on and lower costs for efficient cars would be illegal under this proposal.

"The Greens will be challenging the Government to speak out strongly against this lunacy. There are some proposals to remove unnecessarily complex regulations on products that we should support. But New Zealand negotiators must take a careful approach to distinguishing valid claims from those that will destroy the environment and make us poorer," Ms Fitzsimons says.

The relevant documents can be found on the WTO website - www.wto.org - under the codes TN/MA/W/25 and TN/MA/W/46.

ENDS

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