How much is the newly-signed New Zealand - China Free Trade Agreement 'worth' to New Zealand?

Well, it depends on who you're listening to because no-one appears to know.

Television One News, for example, has quoted several figures in the space of a few days. One reporter, three days ago, quoted $270 million - that went up to $380 million the next day. And, today, Television One had another stab at it. Newsreader Peter Williams, on the Midday News, stated that the agreement 'could' be worth 'up to half a billion dollars'. At this rate Wendy Petrie will be telling us on Friday that the agreement is worth a billion dollars.

Meanwhile in other areas of the mainstream media other figures have been bandied about.

What all these figures have in common is that there is no explanation of how these figure were arrived at.

Even the Labour Government, while loudly trumpeting this agreement, has not provided any concrete details on the 'worth' of this free trade agreement.

In Parliament, Minister of Justice Annette King, answering a question on behalf of the Minister of Trade Phil Goff, stated that the agreement would be worth 'between $225 and $350 million - but also failed to explain how this figure was arrived at.

It seems that figures are being plucked out of the air and our corporate media, seemingly supportive of this deal, have not bothered to seek concrete answers.

There was one exception. Radio Live talkback host Michael Laws (someone who I rarely agree with on anything), said on his show that he had 'no idea' how the figures had been arrived at and went on to say that he thought they had 'just been made up.'

Perhaps figures are being made up because this agreement won't be good for ordinary New Zealanders (as opposed to New Zealand corporates).

Competing for business in a country where wage levels are dismally low can only put downward pressure on New Zealand's already low wage rates.

And as the Green Party co-leader Russell Norman has pointed out:

"This trade deal does not eliminate non-tariff barriers to fair trade - things like forced prison labour, child labour, sweatshop conditions, a ban on independent unions and poor environmental protections. These elements of authoritarian capitalism give Chinese business an unfair advantage over New Zealand businesses and will result in further job losses in New Zealand as tariffs fall.'

This free trade agreement might have benefits for Big Business (like Fonterra) but it will have an negative impact on ordinary New Zeaalnders. It is simply part of the WTO, IMF and World Bank attempt to create a single free market for goods and services around the world. Globalisation in terms of so-called free trade benefits international corporations at the expense of the rest of the international community.

More cheap imports from China will undermine manufacturing jobs in New Zealand and replace these with even more low paid jobs in the service and retail sectors (eg stacking the shelves at The Warehouse with cheap Chinese-made goods).

Despite this our dismal trade union 'leadership' - eager not to cause trouble for the Labour Government in an election year - have cravenly accepted this agreement.

Andrew Little, President of the Engineers, Printers and Metalworkers Union and a Labour Party member, has claimed that workers will be protected by this this agreement.

This is not so. The clauses on labour (as well as on the environment) are simple 'memorandums of understanding' and are completely unforceable.

Oh, and then there is the little matter of the authoritarian Stalinist regime violently suppressing the Tibetan people - as well as denying its own people basic democratic rights.


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