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Posts Tagged ‘WTO’

A lesson in free market economics for ex-National MP, Katherine Rich

12 February 2014 4 comments

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Milo's Week Invisible Hand

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It seems that our Aussie cuzzies are taking matters in hand and implementing their own “Buy Local” policies. A few overly-zealous supermarket operators have even taken to removing New Zealand-made products from their shelves,

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Supermarket stoush sours CER

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According to Tracy Watkins’ story in the Dominion Post, Key will raise the problem when he meets Australian PM, Tony Abbott in Sydney, later this week.

Raise what, precisely?

This is capitalism/free market/whatever at work. Supermarket owners can stock whatever goods they like. If an owner took it upon him/herself to stock goods only from Outer Mongolia – that’s his/her call in a free market.

In fact, like the Scottish Shop in Dunedin, some retailers are very specific in what they stock.

Food and Grocery council CEO,  Katherine Rich, complains that this policy “undermined the spirit of CER and risked a backlash in New Zealand as well”,

‘‘It’s an issue we’re watching closely because both major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, have come out with a very pro-Australia stance. There have been some high profile delistings of some New Zealand brands for no other reason than that they are not Australian.’’

Which is supremely ironic as Ms Rich was a one time member and National Party minister from 1999 to 2008.

So she should know how the free market, capitalist system works. It’s a bit too late in the day to start whinging that another nation’s private companies have adopted their own, specific retail policies.

After all, this is something the “invisible hand of the free market” will work out. According to neo-liberal dogma, if consumers want to purchase New Zealand goods, they will go elsewhere, to other retailers. Or buy via the internet. Or hop on a flight to do their grocery shopping here in New Zealand, at a Pak N Save.

That is how the Free Market works, right?

In fact, as Ms Watkins correctly reported, CER binds governments – not private companies;

One option would be for the Government to lodge a formal objection but sources say the situation is complicated by the fact that CER is a government-to-government agreement, and it is not ‘‘straight forward’’ whether supermarkets are captured by that process.

Very astute.

After all, wouldn’t it be a form of “communism” to bind private companies to buy certain goods?!

On the other hand, free trade agreements such as the CER, or the China-NZ FTA, or the impending TPPA, do bind governments in the way they must purchase goods and services.

A New Zealand government wanting to implement a procurement policy that favours locally produced goods and/or services would immediatly be sued by other nations or foreign corporations, via the World Trade Organisation. (In fact, New Zealand sued Australia at the WTO, over the latter’s refusal to allow New Zealand applies into that country. We won.)

So free trade agreements bind governments – but not private companies (those Kiwi apples can be exported to Australia – but no law can force an Aussie retailer or chain-stores to stock them).

This is something that New Zealanders might consider as the issue of the TPPA nears resolution; signatory governments – like our government – would be bound by a TPPA. But private companies would not (or only in peripheral ways) be bound.

As for Katherine Rich?

Tough luck, lady. This is the capitalist system at work.

Suck it up.

Welcome to  the corporatisation of human civilisation.

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References

TV1: Sweet success after bitter battle over NZ apples

Fairfax media: Supermarket stoush sours CER

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Why I am a Leftie

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 February 2014.

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You’ll have a free market – even if it KILLS you!

4 December 2011 19 comments

This is perhaps the clearest example of neo-liberalism forcing itself on nations that cannot resist the influence of western corporatism – even when it places people at risk from unsafe products,

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Full Story

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Whilst WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said that Samoa’s enytry into the WTO would  “enable Samoa to participate more fully in the global economy and will provide the country with a predictable and stable basis for growth and development” – Otago Medical School Associate Professor, Nick Wilson,  was less than enthusiastic,

From a public health perspective the decision to allow turkey tails … will fuel the epidemics of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease that are hitting Pacific Island nations.

Mean, a spokesperson for our Trade Minister, Tim Groser, supported lifting the ban.

Trade bans on selected items are unlikely to be effective in addressing obesity and health issues.”

Really?! So if a government allows an unhealthy product to be put on their supermarket shelves; and is then consumed by members of the public – Tim Groser is saying that’s ok?

That sounds like a fairly good rationale for legalising and selling heroin.

After all, it could easily be said that banning heroin is   “unlikely to be effective in addressing …health issues.”

Just what the South Pacific needs: more unhealthy food by-products distributed and sold cheaply, and which will ultimately result in yet more Pacifica peoples dying from obesity-related diseases.

Are we in the West proud of  ourselves, yet?

The greatest irony is that, in the 1970s,  New Zealand fought a diplomatic war against the French to stop atomic weapons-testing in the South Pacific, because of fears that radiation would harm the environment and ourselves.

What is even more obscene is that US corporate interests are quite open in their campaign to market unhealthy, destructive foods to low-income, under-developed societies,

The USA Poultry and Egg Export Council welcomed the end on the ban, telling Bloomberg that it was the “consumers’ right to determine what foods they wish to consume, not the government’s.

Under the guise of “free choice”, corporate interests will peddle their cheap, toxic, foodstuffs to Pacifican people – and will reap profits, whilst local governments pick up the social costs of dealing with diabetes, heart disease, and other obesity-related diseases.

Surely by now, we in the West must be revelling in pride at this accomplishment.

This is the raw, naked face of unfettered free market capitalism that is not bound by morality, nor concerns for human welfare. This is profit-making without due regard to consequences.

And this time, the blood of Pacificans are on our hands as well; “Fiji banned mutton flap imports in 2000 and New Zealand responded by threatening to refer the issue to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).   New Zealand later withdrew plans to approach the WTO and the ban still stands (as of March 2009)”,

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Full Story

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I wonder how we might feel if another nation exported unhealthy products into our country – perhaps targetted at our young people – and we were powerless to stop it?

How would we feel, for example, if all restrictions on alcohol and tobacco products had to be removed at WTO insistence – because companies that manufactured those products were unhappy that their profits were being undermined?

We’d be pretty pissed, I’d guess.

But it’s ok if we do it to another country; to our neighbours in the Pacific?

WTO critics claim the Washington based International Food and Beverage Alliance, formed by Kraft, Coca-Cola and General Mills, is behind the pressure to end food type bans.

“This is not true,” spokeswoman Jane Reid said.

“(The Alliance) has had no involvement whatsoever in this issue.”

Yeah, right.

It is high time that New Zealand led by example and halted the sale of unhealthy meat by-products to our Pacific neighbours. Otherwise we are practically conducting war-by-poor-nutrition against the peoples of the Pacific.

It is time that New Zealand led an international  campaign in the WTO against rules that allow toxic foods to be sold without restraint.

International trade rules that favour corporate “rights” and unfettered trade are anathema to the values that we hold dear.  In the final analysis, governments are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of their peoples – not to corporations and their profits.

Perhaps Tim Grosser; the National Government; the WTO; the International Food and Beverage Alliance; the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council; et al; would care to dine out on mutton flaps and turkey tails for a few years?

I guess not.

After all, they can all afford proper, nutritious food.

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Previous blogpost

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

Additional Reading

New Zealand’s impact on health in the South Pacific: scope for improvement?

Trade in Everything: Turkey Tails

Critics challenge exports of mutton flaps, turkey tails and expired eggs to Samoa

Nutrition Facts: Turkey Tail

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