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Singapore diplomats meet GATT Watchdog

17 August 2000

Media Release

Singapore High Commissioner to meet with GATT Watchdog regarding controversial free trade agreement

GATT Watchdog will tomorrow meet with Singapore's High Commissioner to New Zealand, Mr Tan King Jin, about the controversial "closer economic partnership" free trade agreement being negotiated between the two governments.

"We wrote to the Director of the Trade Division in Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry and the High Commissioner in July, seeking a copy of the text of the agreement which the New Zealand Government has refused to release. The High Commission contacted us and set up this meeting. Given the anti-democratic way in which the New Zealand government continues to handle trade negotiations, we congratulate the Singapore High Commissioner for taking the initiative to meet with us while he is in Christchurch on Friday," says Aziz Choudry of GATT Watchdog.

"The text must be made available now - before negotiations are complete. The New Zealand government cannot attack critics of trade and investment liberalisation for speculating about the implications of this agreement based on what is known of the contents and yet at the same time refuse to release the text. Under pressure, even the National Government released the draft text of the MAI and a range of official documents relating to the failed agreement during 1997 and 1998 while negotiations were still taking place. What is the current government scared of?"

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade clearly sees this as a first step towards a much larger CER/ASEAN Free Trade Area agreement. That is all the more reason why it should be subject to genuine analysis and rigorous scrutiny about its implications for New Zealand."

"New Zealand claims to be a democracy. We find it unacceptable that decisions which will impact on New Zealand policy choices are not open to debate until negotiations have concluded when it will be far too late to really change anything. The Treaty of Waitangi also requires Maori to be co-participants in decisions affecting this country and yet they have been effectively excluded. It is simply not good enough that the New Zealand Government will not release the text until Cabinet has signed off on it."

For further comment, contact
Aziz Choudry
ph (03) 3662803,
GATT Watchdog,M
PO Box 1905,

Resist WTO, APEC, Economic Globalisation Index


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