INDEPENDENT NEWS

Middle Ground Needed On Singapore Trade Agreement

Published: Thu 17 Aug 2000 10:24 AM
Middle Ground Needed On Singapore Free-Trade Agreement
Environmental concerns may be the loser in the current political wrangle over the Singapore free trade agreement, the Ecologic Foundation said today.
Last year, the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, called for a change in New Zealand’s trade policy to ensure that environmental considerations and labour standards were incorporated.
“However, the Singapore agreement is currently shaping up as an opportunity for political parties to make a stand for or against free trade,” said Ecologic’s executive director, Guy Salmon.
“In that context, the opportunity to establish a sensible middle ground, which integrates free trade alongside environmental sustainability, may be lost.”
Mr Salmon called on the Government not to get distracted by ideological calls for or against free trade, but to work out a responsible position that honoured the Prime Minister’s commitment to an integrated free trade policy.
The Ecologic Foundation is proposing that New Zealand should develop an ‘environmental sustainability’ standard that imports into the country are required to meet. This should be incorporated into both multilateral and bilateral trade agreements.
“It is particularly important the Government sets such a standard with the Singapore agreement as it is likely to set a precedent for future bilateral trade agreements with other nations.”
“While free trade agreements can boost our economic and employment prospects, they can also shape our environmental future.”
“If we continue to allow the importation of products that are produced with a destructive effect on the environment, such as clear-felled tropical timber, then we are tacitly supporting the continuation of those practices.
“In addition, an ill-directed trade policy could offset any positive gains in the Government’s domestic initiatives on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.”
For more information, please contact Guy Salmon at 025-201 3033

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