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Singapore Treaty has serious foreign investment implications
18 August 2000
The Government is currently negotiating a closer economic partnership with Singapore. It is shrouded in secrecy. Even National released the text of the infamous Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), in the late 1990s. Labour/Alliance is showing the undemocratic traits of all its predecessors on the subject of free trade.
Because it is secret, the treaty’s implications are neither known nor understood by the public (or MPs). It provides a very big foot in the door for similar pacts with the whole SE Asian region, with South America, and the US. It has already been described as a Trojan horse by the current head of the Asia 2000 Foundation, who was NZ‘s chief negotiator at the GATT Uruguay Round (Tim Groser, address to NZ Institute for Policy Studies, 15/3/00; Beyond CER: new trade options for NZ).
The Alliance is critical to whether this precedent setting treaty passes or fails. Its silence on the subject has been deafening. Yet the Alliance was active in the successful campaign which defeated the MAI. Jim Anderton is a keen cricketer, so he should understand that it was an attempt to win the game with a six; they’re now trying singles.
The Singapore treaty is not just about trade. It has major implications for foreign investment. Building on the model of the MAI and the aborted Millennium Round of the WTO, it will doubtless offer features such as no rollback and national treatment for Singaporean investors here. Meaning that it will be impossible to do anything substantive to repair the damage done by 15 years of unrestricted foreign takeover of NZ, and illegal to give any preference to NZ companies over Singaporean ones.
Singapore is already a major player among NZ’s new transnational owners Singaporeans partly or fully own assets including Brierley’s (which has moved to Singapore), Air New Zealand, Auckland Airport, DB, Corbans, Union Shipping, Sealord, CDL (the largest hotel owner in NZ), Computerland, large numbers of commercial buildings, rural land and resorts. And some of that investment has been controversial the Singaporean partner of Tommy Suharto bought the multimillion dollar Lilybank resort from him for $1.
So this treaty, if passed, will contribute to: the crippling balance of payments deficit (as profits haemorrhage out of the country), to the unemployment that follows foreign investors as they rationalise, restructure and relocate their bargain buys, and to the creation of more menial, lowpaid jobs. These are some of the reasons why this treaty must be made public, with its implications clearly spelled out to Parliamentarians and public alike, and why it must be defeated. To discourage the others.