Economic and environmental history of Aotearoa - New Zealand|
Date: Sun, 15 Feb 98 17:34:13 +1200
Organization: PlaNet Gaia Otautahi
Government Social Irresponsibility, Insincerity, Slammed Over Paris Investment Negotiations
Media release from GATT Watchdog
15 February 1998
This week, negotiations on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI)
reach a critical point as senior officials from 29 OECD countries meet in
Paris on 16 and 17 February to assess whether and how to complete the
controversial treaty by its current April deadline*(see footnote). This is
the time that governments will be formulating their final negotiating
positions. New Zealand fair trade coalition GATT Watchdog condemns the New
Zealand government's behaviour in relation to the MAI as insincere and so
cially irresponsible. It is calling on the government to halt its
involvement in negotiations on the MAI, which it describes as a bill of
rights and freedoms for foreign investors.
"On the eve of Jenny Shipley's major announcement about the government's
Code of Social Responsibility that it wants to impose on hundreds of
thousands of New Zealanders it is outrageous that senior government
officials will sneak off to this highlevel meeting in Paris which few people
are even aware of. The government has still not completed its series of
consultation hui with Maori, and has failed to honour its commitment to hold
a Parliamentary debate on the subject," says Aziz Choudry, a spokesperson.
(The next series of hui starts on 23 February).
"Some have already questioned the sincerity and real motives for setting up a
consultation round with Maori and the promise of a Parliamentary debate on
the MAI. It is now quite clear that these are merely meaningless stabs at
domestic damage control."
"The MAI, if signed, will lock in the worst features of a dog-eat-dog
deregulated, open economy which has already cost untold job losses and
contributed to a rapidly-widening poverty gap. The fact that the New Zealand
government thinks that it can push on regardless of public opinion at home or
abroad, without any genuine attempt to consult with Maori or non-Maori, or a
debate on the issues in Parliament calls into question its sincerity and
intentions to ever engage in any open discussion about the issue.
How dare it demand "social responsibility" of low-income New Zealanders when
it still refuses to be accountable to the public in its international treaty
negotiations on the MAI?"
The political, social and economic fallout of pushing on with MAI
negotiations will have longterm repercussions for New Zealand, he said.
"It would be far wiser instead to commit to a moratorium on further MAI
negotiations at least until a genuine open public consultation process has
taken place, not the insincere, half-hearted and belated efforts that it is
trying to pass off as consultation even as it furtively prepares to dot the
"i"s and cross the "t"s on as much of the MAI text as possible this week".
He says that it is not only the many hundreds of non-governmental
organisations, indigenous peoples, unions, and peoples' movements throughout
the world which oppose the MAI.
"The provincial governments of British Columbia and Prince Edward Island have
both called on the Canadian federal government not to ratify the MAI until
full public consultations have been carried out across Canada. The BC
provincial government has warned that the federal government should not
assume that it will allow the MAI to be applied to the province in the event
of it signing the agreement. Meanwhile, the US government, whose companies
would be the largest beneficiaries of the MAI, is demanding an exemption
from the agreement for all existing state and local government laws."
The New Zealand government has been singled out by observers of the
negotiations as one of the very few governments opposing even token
recognition of environmental and labour issues by the corporations who would
gain from the MAI.
"Its position is quite clear," said Mr Choudry, "it wants social
responsibility from the victims of its policies, but not from the
corporations who benefit".
For further comment, contact: Aziz Choudry (GATT Watchdog) at (03) 3662803
*NOTE(It seems increasingly unlikely that the April deadline for a final
signing of the MAI will be met. US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky
last week publicly stated that the US cannot sign in April. There continue
to be many tensions and differences in negotiating positions among OECD
member countries which are unacceptable to the USA. But it is likely that
there will be a push to lock in the provisions of the MAI on which there is
consensus by April, and then to set up a work programme and deadline to
resolve outstanding issues in negotiations.)