Minister for International Trade Minister of Tourism Associate Minister of Finance Associate Minister of Immigration (Internatio

  • Lockwood Smith
International Trade

"Alliance Leader Jim Anderton's claims that he has 'evidence' of New Zealand being excluded from regional forums because of our commitment to free trade cannot be allowed to pass without challenge," said Trade Minister Lockwood Smith today.

"Mr Anderton's ignorance of APEC and its work is embarrassing.

"He says that it would be disastrous if New Zealand uses the Chair of APEC to push for trade liberalisation. New Zealand's first goal as APEC Chair is 'Expanding Opportunities for Business Throughout the Region' through trade liberalisation, facilitation and economic and technical cooperation. This goal has been discussed with each of APEC's member economies by either myself, the Prime Minister or the Chair of the Senior Officials' process, and it has been enthusiastically accepted as a good approach to maintaining APEC's credibility.

"New Zealand would be letting down the APEC process if, as Chair, we went soft on trade liberalisation. It is our role to maintain the organisation's momentum towards the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment by 2010 for developed economies and 2020 for developing economies.

"Every time Mr Anderton opens his mouth, he shows his ignorance. His views are out of touch and ignorant - they just ignore the facts. Since 1991, trade liberalisation has delivered huge benefits to New Zealand families:

1. 268,000 jobs have been created under the National-led Government. In fact for every week that National has been in office since 1991, around 600 New Zealanders have found new jobs;
2. The average weekly wage has risen from $542 to $654;
3. Net crown debt is down from 52% of GDP in 1991 to less than 25%;
4. New Zealand's economy has grown by 37% since 1991;

"Mr Anderton should either put up or shut up.

"I defy him to provide me with evidence of New Zealand's exclusion from any significant inter-Governmental group because of our commitment to free trade by 5 p.m. tonight.

"I won't hold my breath for his call," Dr Smith concluded.