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Singapore Free Trade Agreement a Trojan Horse

19 July 2000

The Green Party is urging the Government to pull out of a proposed free trade agreement with Singapore and has presented a paper to cabinet to back up their case.

"We want to see some real life evidence that free trade agreements lead to more jobs, lower prices, better quality products, a healthier environment and social security before the government proceeds with the Singapore Free Trade Agreement," said Green Party Co-Leader Rod Donald.

"The well-kept dirty secret of free trade is that it doesn't necessarily lead to any of these things and can make the majority of people worse off, not better off, despite wishful thinking based on econometric models claiming otherwise."

To reinforce their concerns, a 20 page briefing paper was presented to the Prime Minister earlier this month, and she was asked to circulate it to all cabinet ministers. Prepared by Green trade researcher Dr Christine Dann, the paper pointed out that:

  • 98% of merchandise trade between New Zealand and Singapore is already free of tariffs - only some NZ beers, porter and samsoo (alcoholic beverages) attract tariffs in Singapore - in ten years of 98% 'free' trade with Singapore, New Zealand has accumulated a $698.2 million trade deficit - such an agreement could jeopardise regional development and Maori development initiatives by prohibiting local procurement (buy local policies)
  • the agreement also has the potential to distort the development of education services in New Zealand
  • Singapore will not give up the considerable advantages conferred by its government-linked companies and government investment schemes.

"The Singapore agreement is clearly the Trojan Horse for a wider ASEAN free trade zone, which would have devastating consequences for local manufacturers," said Mr Donald.

"There is no point in setting up a jobs machine if New Zealand producers are expected to compete with cheap Asian imports without protection or support."

The Greens have also criticised the Government for appointing former National Party Finance Minister Bill Birch as their trade negotiator.

"If this government is serious about getting New Zealand working again, it should sack Birch and abandon the trade policies of the previous government," he said.

The full paper is available from Rod Donald's office, (04) 470 6663

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