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Submission on Singapore Free Trade Agreement
19 September 2000.
To the Committee Clerk,
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee
Re the Select Committee Inquiry into International Treaty Examination on the
Agreement between New Zealand and Singapore on a Closer Economic Partnership.
Dear Committee Clerk,
- It is an important step forward for democracy in New Zealand that the prerogative power of the executive to enter into binding treaty obligations is now subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
- It is an important step backwards for democracy that the select committee inquiry is being conducted with ludicrous haste.
- 'Free trade' is a slogan derived from laissez faire liberalism in the earliest era of modern capitalism. What it meant then and now is that those who are already rich in capital should have the free opportunity to create greater wealth for themselves without impediments such as health and safety regulations, environmental safeguards, and minimum rates of pay for workers. In addition in the modern era, free flows of investment in financial transactions are considered important although free flow is restricted when it comes to the enforcement of intellectual property rights.
- What ought to be important for the members of the Parliament of New Zealand is that the Closer Economic Partnership with Singapore is one of a number of international 'free trade' instruments that remove the future freedom of the Parliament of New Zealand to legislate in accordance with the wishes of the New Zealand electorate. The interests of international capital in 'free trade' is deemed more important than the aspirations of New Zealanders for New Zealand.
- The Green Party is to be congratulated for its principled stand in favour of 'fair trade'. It is most important that the opposition to 'free trade' should be conducted at all relevant pressure points of international politics. Public demonstrations outside 'free trade' fora are a matter of supreme importance to the long term interests of New Zealand democracy and to the hope of implementing ecologically sustainable policies for the global environment in the future. I am proud that two New Zealand members of parliament represented me in the demonstrations outside the World Economic Forum meeting in Melbourne recently.
- Those promoting the Singapore agreement have stated that it is a "Trojan horse" to facilitate wider regional 'free trade' agreements in the future. I submit that the New Zealand Parliament should learn from the mistake made by the defenders of Troy - leave that 'free trade horse' outside the walls. Do not pull it inside the walls of our democracy to inspect it and see how it works.
If your timetable had permitted it then I might have had the time to comment on the details of the agreement that is the subject of your hearings. If the committee decides to hold hearings in the Auckland region then I request the opportunity to supplement this written submission with an oral submission.
(Dr) David Williams
For more information on the Singapore Free Trade Agreement, see the index page on globalisation