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Posts Tagged ‘Free Trade Agreement’

Letter to the editor – How much will a ‘free’ trade deal with Sth Korea cost us?

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Mon, Mar 23, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
NZ Herald
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On 23 March, John Key and Tim Groser signed a “free” trade agreement with South Korea (before Key scooted back to New Zealand to prop up National’s lame-duck candidate in the Northland by-election).

Key tried his best to push for the benefits of the NZ-Korea FTA by claiming;

“At the moment, New Zealand exports into Korea attract $229 million a year in duties. Tariff reductions in the first year of the FTA alone will save an estimated $65 million.”

It may well “save” exporters $65 million in tariffs.

But how many jobs will it create?

Before New Zealand opened it’s borders to imports from low-wage economies, our unemployment was much lower. In 1981, the Five Yearly Census showed unemployment numbering at 60,258.

Thirtytwo years later, after trade liberalisation; abolition of tariffs; and other so-called “free” trade initiatives, the 2013 Census showed unemployment to number at 153,210 – two and a half times more than the early 1980s.

Perhaps it is just as well that we have cheap goods pouring in from China and elsewhere. We certainly have more unemployed to purchase them.

 

-Frank Macskasy

 

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[Address and phone number supplied]


 

References

TV3 News: NZ signs Korea free trade agreement

1983 New Zealand Yearbook – Unemployment

2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights


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John Armstrong, bloggers, and the free market

19 September 2012 2 comments

NZ  Herald  “chief political commentator” seems to have taken issue with bloggers. Well, two bloggers, mostly,

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John Armstrong NZ herald bloggers

Full bizarre story

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Armstrong’s bizarre comments were… well, bizarre.

Personally, I put it down to an unholy mixture of jet-lag*; long nights; too much/too little caffeine;  mid-life crisis; with a fair whack of frustration. Something has obviously crawled up his bits.

In fact, his comments in his column (above) were not just downright unprofessional, but  suggestive of  poor health. Comments like,

Here is a blunt message for a couple of old-school Aro Valley-style socialists…”

Get off our backs.’

Stop behaving like a pair of tut-tutting old dowagers gossiping in the salons.’

In short, stop making blinkered, cheap-shot accusations of the kind you made this week…”

And those were in just the first paragraph. After that, it was all downhill.

The tirade was directed at two gentlemen, Gordon Campbell and Bryce Edwards. Both responded in their own ways, and style,

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Full story

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Full story

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All three are worth reading.

All  three  speak volumes about the state of journalism in this country.

Firstly; John Armstrong represents the Old Guard of the Fourth Estate; conservative; part of The Establishment; close to government. In fact, how close to government was exemplified by this extraordinary statement from opinion piece above,

“The rapidly growing influence of Edwards’ blog was initially down to its being an exhaustive wrap-up of all of the day’s political news. It is now starting to develop a much more political dynamic that is unlikely to please National.”

With an admission like that, you begin to realise why someone like Armstrong would be so belligerent to the likes of Campbell and Bryce, who are hardly Establishment-types.

Since when was it ever the concern of a journalist whether what s/he  wrote was ” unlikely to please National “?!

A journalist is not put on this Earth to “please National” (or Labour). They are here to tell us what’s going on – regardless of whether or not National (or Labour)  are  “displeased”.

That one remark validates every criticism every made of the NZ Herald that it is a clandestine mouthpiece for the National Party. There is no other way it can be interpreted.

Secondly; whilst Armstrong represents the Old Guard of journalism, Campbell and Bryce are part of the  New Wave of Media. In large part, this involves the latest advent of mass-media, the internet. But the internet is simply the tool – it is an attitudinal sea-change  that best encapsulates what Bryce and Campbell represent.

When Rogernomics engulfed this country, it introduced the concept of the “free market” and “choice” to our economy. Some of it benefitted our nation – much of it did not. Thousands who lost their jobs will attest to that.

But the liberalisation and de-regulation of New Zealand was not simply something applied to our economy. It reached into, and affected every part, of our society.

MMP, for example, did to the electoral/political system was the removal of tariffs did to the  importation of consumer products; it gave the Voter/consumer a greater choice in who to vote for.

That same liberalisation encouraged the de-regulation of the Media. It was no longer the province of  card-carrying journos, feature writers, and freelancers. Suddenly, anyone could get “in on the game”. The internet did for citizen journalists, bloggers, and non-establishment commentators  what the typewriter and paid salaries did for mainstream journos.

The richest irony here is that John Armstrong is a cheerleader for the de-regulated free market – the same de-regulated free market that has pissed him off by letting everyone in on his turf.

Right about now, Armstrong should understand what it felt like when our shops were flooded with cheap clothing and shoes from Fiji, China, and India – whilst New Zealand seamstresses and shoemakers were forced out of business.

Or how Labour and National politicans felt when MMP changed our political landscape and Parliament was flooded with Greens, NZ Firsters, Alliance, ACT, etc.

The de-regulated free market is such a wonderful thing – until it’s your arse that is bitten.

Painful eh, John?

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Addendum

Armstrong complains about the tough nature of his job – especially accompanying John Key and his entourage to the APEC conconference in *Vladivostok last week.

Perhaps instead of writing travelogue pieces (see: Curse of Russky Island strikes ) he might have considered writing about Key’s pursuit of a Free Trade Agreement with Russia. This might have been a worthy topic, considering that Russia appears to have an unhealthy, close relationship with the Russian Mafia. (See related blogpost: A FTA deal with Russia?! That’s a big “NYET” Comrade Key! )

Even the Guardian and Washington Post felt the situation warranted some decent investigative journalism. (See: The farce of Russian elections , Russia’s presidential election: rigging is a delicate art, Putin’s government moves to quash public dissent )

But we got none of that (unless I’ve missed it).

A story of a sovereign state that appears to have  close connections to gangsters would seem to be much more of a story than interesting scenery in Vladivostok.  That might’ve made an interesting story for Armstrong to pursue – especially if we’re going to be cosying up to our Russian cuzzies with a FTA.

Newsworthy, I would have thought.

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Sources

Bloggers don’t let the facts get in the way

Gordon Campbell on journalism, and John Armstrong

Political round-up: Blogging backlash

Curse of Russky Island strikes

Who owns what: for an answer, start here

Previous related blogpost

A FTA deal with Russia?! That’s a big “NYET” Comrade Key!

Tracey Watkins on John Key – Surprised?!

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A FTA deal with Russia?! That’s a big “NYET” Comrade Key!

11 September 2012 19 comments

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Politicians sometimes just don’t learn…

Prologue: 2008AD

On 7 April 2008, the then Labour Government signed a  Free Trade Agreement with China. Part of that FTA included the following clauses,

Article 143 Fair and Equitable Treatment

1. Investments of investors of each Party shall at all times be accorded fair and equitable treatment and shall enjoy the full protection and security in the territory of the other Party in accordance with commonly accepted rules of international law.

2. Fair and equitable treatment includes the obligation to ensure that, having regard to general principles of law, investors are not denied justice or treated unfairly or inequitably in any legal or administrative proceeding affecting the investments of the investor.

3. Full protection and security requires each Party to take such measures as may be reasonably necessary in the exercise of its authority to ensure the protection and security of the investment.

4. Neither Party shall take any unreasonable or discriminatory measures against the management, maintenance, use, enjoyment and disposal of the investments by the investors of the other Party.

5. A violation of any other article of this Chapter does not establish that there has been a violation of this Article.

Article 144 Compensation for Losses

Investors of a Party whose investments in the territory of the other Party suffer losses owing to war or other armed conflict, a state of national emergency, insurrection, riot or other similar events in the territory of the latter Party shall be accorded by the latter Party treatment, as regards restitution, indemnification, compensation or other settlements no less favourable than that accorded to the investors of its own or any third country, whichever is more favourable to the investors concerned.

See:  Chapter 11 – Investment

Article 138 National Treatment

Each Party shall accord to investments and activities associated with such investments, with respect to management, conduct, operation, maintenance, use, enjoyment or disposal, by the investors of the other Party treatment no less favourable than that accorded, in like circumstances, to the investments and associated activities by its own investors.”

See: – Ibid

These are the sections which Auckland University law professor,  Jane Kelsey, stated could result in a lawsuit for breaching our Free Trade Agreement with China, in the Crafar Farms affair. Quite simply, Chinese investors cannot be treated differently to local (or any other investors from other nations) in commercial and legal matters.

As Jane Kelsey stated,

If the New Zealand Government had declined the Shanghai Pengxin purchase of the Crafar farms it could have faced an international lawsuit for breaching its free-trade agreement with China. The Government cannot treat applications from Chinese investors differently from similar applications from other countries’ investors under what is known as the ‘most-favoured-nation’ or MFN rule.”

See: Our hands were tied over the Crafar farms sale

Key was more circumspect in admitting this reality of the FTA, when on 27 January 2012, he said on TV3’s ‘Campbell Live’ (@  ),

” … in our view, turning it down on the basis that they were Chinese is not only in my view unacceptable and a bit repugnant , actually it wouldn’t be legally sound either.”

See:  Selling Crafar farms the right decision – Key

Which is about as close as Key has come to publicly admitting that we are bound by our FTA with China to treat their investors on the same footing as New Zealand investors. Whilst this may be met with approval by ACT ideologues, it sound nothing for our country’s economy, nor future investment by our own children who may be priced out of the market by wealthier offshore investors.

Fast forward: 2012AD

Key is now chasing a similar  FTA deal with Russia.  In which case expect more purchases of our productive sector by wealthy Russian investors.

There is everything wrong with this prospect.

Russia is presently ruled by an oligarchy, with Vladimir Putin it’s undisputed head.

This is a corrupt government that stole last December’s  election by voting fraud on a massive scale. Putin’s opponants are either arrested and imprisoned (as in the old Soviet era), or murdered by “unknown assasins”.

See: The farce of Russian elections

See: Russia’s presidential election: rigging is a delicate art

Public dissent is actively discouraged by state repression, and often met with the use of violent force.

See: Putin’s government moves to quash public dissent

The Russian mafia is amongst the most feared globally,  and has strong connections with Putin’s government,

Russia is a corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy centred on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs and organised crime are bound together to create a “virtual mafia state”, according to leaked secret diplomatic cables that provide a damning American assessment of its erstwhile rival superpower.

Arms trafficking, money laundering, personal enrichment, protection for gangsters, extortion and kickbacks, suitcases full of money and secret offshore bank accounts in Cyprus: the cables paint a bleak picture of a political system in which bribery alone totals an estimated $300bn a year, and in which it is often hard to distinguish between the activities of the government and organised crime. “

See: WikiLeaks cables condemn Russia as ‘mafia state’

And this is the “virtual mafia state” that John Key wants closer economic ties with?!

This aspect should be especially worrying to New Zealand, a small nation especially vulnerable to penetration by sophisticated, organised crime.

More worrying is that our esteemed Security Intelligence Service and Police force – which is adept at spying on Maori activists in the Ureweras or peace activists-turned Green MPs – have  either not informed the Prime Minister of Russia’s corrupt criminal government, with mafia links – or has been ignored by National.

This is more than worrying – this is downright dangerous. Key is playing with fire when he associates with such dangerous people.

Why would National consider cosying up to the Russian government/mafia? Especially when, as Judith Collins stated in October 2009,

Gangs have infiltrated businesses; turning legitimate enterprises into money laundering outlets.  Their money has bought them a veneer of legitimacy that is far more dangerous to our society than anything we have seen before.”

See: Organised crime threatens NZ way of life

Collins was referring to local organised gangs. But the same could hold equally true – if not more so – for international crime gangs that are far more organised; well resourced; vicious; and with links to state power.

The Russian mafia is not one to be trifled with. If Collins is concerned about our local crims, she should be positively panicking over the possibility that a FTA with Russia could draw us into closer contact with organised crime syndicates and their political allies in Moscow.

Dealing with Russia is akin to dealing with Columbia or Mexico, should their organised crime gangs ever gain a foothold in those country’s respective governments (if not already).

The prospect of Russian investors with links to organised crime (or, indeed, a front for crime groups) is one that cannot be easily dismissed.

We need to be damned careful who we, as a nation, build closer relations with.  If Key want to “Dance with the Devil”, he is pulling the rest of us in with him.

This blogger reminds the reader of Eastern European notions of the vampyr legends (no, not the glamourised Hollywood version of young, handsome vampires – the Undead variety of gruesome appearance and dodgy personal hygiene). In popular culture, the vampyr could not cross a threshold to enter you home.

You were safe inside – unless someone in your home invited the vampyr to enter.

Once that invitation was extended, the blood-sucking monster could come and go as he (or she) pleased. There was no stopping the creature, except with the usual methods; stake, sunlight, garlic, ACT Party manifesto, etc.

Damned perceptive, our Eastern European cuzzies.

Just be careful, Mr Key, who you invite into our country…

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Additional

MFAT: New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement

New Zealand China Free Trade Agreement (text)

Government could have faced lawsuit

Billionaire’s playground: Russian rich-lister’s home to rival Chrisco mansion

Putin, Key hopeful for Free Trade Agreement

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Mum & Dad investors?

30 January 2012 4 comments

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John Key laments that he could do nothing to stop the sale of the Crafar farms to overseas investors because of our Free Trade Agreement with China.  Shanghai Pengxin had as much right to bid for, and have their bid accepted, as any other bidder in this country,

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Full Story

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Key says that attempting to halt the sale would have meant the Chinese suing us for breaching the FTA, as he was quoted in the Otago Daily Times,

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“Ministers could have overturned that decision, but there were no reasons to do so. The OIO correctly interpreted the legislation, and had they turned it down simply on the basis of being Chinese, it would not only be unlawful but unacceptable and would have been overturned in the courts.” ” – Source

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In which case, how will John Key ensure that Kiwi “mum and dad” investors are allowed first option to buy shares in soon-to-be privatised state power companies – without Chinese demanding the same right to bid,

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Full Story

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Won’t we be sued by China  if “mum & dad” investors get first preference over countries with which we have a FTA with?

It will be interesting to see how our Dear Leader resolves this little dilemma.

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