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Free trade must be fair

Written By: - Date published: 3:30 pm, September 23rd, 2008 - 15 comments
Categories: economy, International - Tags:

In principle, a free trade deal between the US and the P4 countries (NZ, Chile, Singapore, and Brunei) is a good thing.

If we want our world’s limited resources to be used efficiently, we should not place artificial barriers in the way of trade without good reason. But we must make sure that the FTA doesn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. We must insist on protecting labour and environmental standards in the FTA (which should be less of an issue dealing with the US than it was in the China deal). We must also not give up our right to buy medicine collectively via Pharmac, which allows us to get much better value for limited funds than would otherwise be the case. The worry is that the US will demand open access to our pharmaceutical market in exchange for freer access to their food markets.

It is a real victory for New Zealand diplomacy that we have managed to get this far but the devil will be in the detail.


15 comments on “Free trade must be fair”

  1. Matthew Pilott 1

    Did you hear Bernard Hackey last night? Apparently, when National was criticising Labour for not getting an FTA (at the time Australia got one) they were completely right, but now that Labour has made the breakthrough, it’s likely to be an unmitigated disaster for NZ.

    That guy is a complete joke – I was left wondering why JC would get him on. According to his “analysis”, you’d have to conclude that the AUS-US FTA was the first bilateral FTA the US had negotiated, because it was on that basis that Hackey concluded that NZ wouldn’t do well.

    Bernard, next time, just say: “Look, John, I’ll be honest with you. According to me, if Key has negotiated this, it would be the best thing since the CER. Unfortunately for NZ, Labour was at the helm, so we’ll probably do terribly and have to sell babies in order to get access to their markets. No, no reason for that, I’m not going to provide reasoned analysis, John, because I’m a hack.”

  2. Bill 2

    The principle of free trade deals is about as far away from ‘good’ as you can get Steve.

    The stronger, bigger economy will swallow the smaller, weaker one. Free trade decimates weaker economies. The US historically used many mechanisms such as tariffs precisely so that it could develop it’s industrial base free from the threat of a foreign economy dumping cheap goods on the domestic market and killing off domestic production. Now they are the ‘big boys’ things change because free trade works to their advantage.

    It’s the same deal with NZ trying to push free trade on the smaller Pacific Nations. The stronger looking to exploit the weaker.

    I guess that since NZ was stupid enough to voluntarily throw away almost all measures of protection anyway, it won’t make too much of a difference here.

    But equating free trade with fairness is an oxymoron.

    And what did the NZ government have to do to get FTS talks? Allow the USA to sell nuclear technology to India? Given the growing geo-political importance of India to the US and the fucking appalling instability in that region, I’d say it is a fair bet that was the trade off that got NZ talks.

    Nice. Pakistan has already said there will be a new arms race in the region because of the nuclear deal with India and NZ had a veto which it gave away for the sake of signing up to a thoroughly discredited, some might say venal, form of trade.

    Well done NZ. Maybe when the Indians and Pakistanis have stopped lobbing nuclear missiles at one another NZ companies can join in the rush to snap up reconstruction contracts? Good for the economy that.

  3. Carol 3

    I was pleased to see the Greens raised some questions about specific issues this afternoon in Parliament. It was pretty much on the points that Idiot/Savant raised on his blog: GM crops, getting rid of pharmac so big drug companies could have more power etc.

    Tho Annette King wouldn’t give any specific assurances, other than saying they would negotiate for the things that are important to NZ.

  4. a general comment.. I’m unaware any specifics in any case..


    I think it would be as well for enzed to know who they are dealing with.. and do any deals on that basis..

    my reservations arise in say enzed chambers of commerce for example being way behind the 8-ball of their US counterparts. Reason being that only a year ago the USCC were dead set against climate change policy solutions. And do were – and likely still are – enzed’s CC folks.

    But now with the whole secretariat coming out in favor of the USCC getting alongside legislators and into the game on a strong positive push, the possibilities of not least inequality are much higher.. US answers of course are unlikely to be kiwi answers.. at least scale alone suggests this..

  5. Matthew Hooton 5

    Bill, it is the small Pacific states that want free trade (including free trade in labour) with New Zealand, not the other way round. New Zealand tends to listen politely to their requests, declare a Pacific FTA to be a “major priority” and then hope go deal with the bigger boys. A bit like the way the US has treated us for a quarter century!

  6. the sprout 6

    A bit like National treats domestic industrial relations.

  7. vto 7

    I don’t like the idea of a FTA with the USA.

    I say NO!

  8. randal 8

    well so what. whats the right wing mantra. its not what you know its who you know. If we keep looking back then nothing will happen. Putting a pejorative spin on everything is defeatist and not worthy of a master of the kiwiverse…hehehehe

  9. Bill 9

    Okay Matthew, which players in the small Pacific States want free trade? And is what the governments are willing to accept in line with what the populations want? You see, historically, neo-liberalism and free trade are imposed on populations. There are no exceptions…unless you are perhaps able to point to an example or (and I know this is stretching it)… two?

    On the Pacific….

    “Pacific NGOs, churches and unions, meeting at the Pacific Civil Society Forum in Auckland (during August) released a joint statement on trade justice in the Pacific, warning of the likely impacts of a free trade deal with Australia and NZ. They advise Pacific leaders to be wary that Australia’s offer of a new seasonal workers’ scheme could be used as a bribe to start free trade negotiations. Civil society organisations are calling for Australia and New Zealand to act now to boost Pacific exports, rather than trying to push vulnerable Pacific nations into an unfair free trade agreement.”


    “Liberalisation is it really providing a level playing field for small nations and bigger nations? We cannot see that. Actually this trade liberalisation is making small countries dance to a tune by bigger countries. Powerful countries.” Ephraim Kalsakau, Vanuatu National Workers’ Union Trade

  10. Matthew Hooton 10

    Bill, the governments and trade negotiators. I have no idea about the views of Pacific NGOs, churches and unions and take your word for it.

  11. Bill 11


    You do know about the views of NGOs, churches and unions. Their views are in the comment you replied to.

    And you know they suspect movement of labour will likely be used as leverage to impose a free trade deal.

    The link (which I forgot to paste) is http://www.oxfam.org.nz/news.asp?aid=1856

    And I really am curious as to whether you can name one instance of free trade ideology being adopted through means other than coercion or imposition.

  12. the sprout 12

    Bill, play fair – how can Matthew do his magic if you dismiss vacuous rhetoric and insist on fact?

  13. Ari 13

    Did you hear Bernard Hackey last night? Apparently, when National was criticising Labour for not getting an FTA (at the time Australia got one) they were completely right, but now that Labour has made the breakthrough, it’s likely to be an unmitigated disaster for NZ.

    While I agree with you that it’s a huge double standard the way he talked about an FTA with the USA before it was an actual prospect and the way he’s talking about it now, there’s no doubting the factuality of all the concerns he raised in his most recent interview. Even if all the tariffs on our meat and dairy products are lifted in this deal, we still have substantial subsides on their own products to contend with- and I’d be very surprised if we can beat them off any of those subsides given the enormous influence of the agricultural lobby in the USA.

  14. Draco T Bastard 14

    Truth Seeker has an interesting take on free-markets.

  15. Draco T Bastard 15

    Eeep O_O
    In the spam trap again 🙁

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