An expected free trade agreement with ASEAN nations will increase New Zealand’s official links with the Burmese military regime.
The ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) is currently under negotiation with the expectation that a draft will be agreed later this month. An announcement of the agreement is expected at the ASEAN Economic Minister’s meeting in late August.
Trade between New Zealand and Burma is limited (see figures below), and it is not expected that trade in goods will increase to significant levels as a result of this agreement. However, as the Burmese regime maintains monopolies on the export of most of the country’s products and much of the economy is controlled by the military, any business with Burma is likely to put money directly into the hands of the repressive government.
The agreement may also see an increase in contract work and service provision. A New Zealand state-owned company, Kordia, has previously done engineering work on cell tower installations for government-controlled Myanmar Post and Telecommunications.
Another part of the deal is an economic cooperation agreement under which Australia and New Zealand will fund projects to improve ASEAN countries economic performance. This may include technical advice, assistance in economic restructuring and conferences and workshops on topics of interest. Burmese military government officials will have access to this support.
The main gain for the Burmese regime is the increased participation in regional forums and diplomatic circles. This has the effect of normalising links between the illegal military junta and other governments, further marginalising the elected government and helps break down the isolation of a regime responsible for massive human rights abuses and military atrocities.
What you can do
While the agreement is close to completion, full ratification will take some time. Pressure on government may have some effect and letters to newspapers, comments on blogs, etc. will at least throw light on this unethical agreement and help to prevent future commercial contact between New Zealand companies and the Burmese regime.
Trade union members may wish to raise this issue in union newspapers and call for unions to act against ties with Burma. See below for contact details for ministers, MFAT, newspapers and embassies and links for more information on Burma.
New Zealand – Burma trade (from MFAT website)
NZ Exports: NZ$ 5,813,000
Main Exports: Dairy, sugars, iron and steel
NZ Imports: NZ$ 1,378,000
Main Imports: Garments, Furniture, Preserved Fish
(for year ended Jun 2007)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Luke Leonard, AANZFTA coordinator
Ph: 04 439 8084
New Zealand Government
Hon Phil Goff – Minister of Trade
Ph. (04) 470-6553
Fax (04) 495-8444
Hon Luamanuvao Winnie Laban – Associate minister of trade
Ph. (04) 470-6582
Fax. (04) 472-9275
Hon Shane Jones – Associate Minister of Trade
Ph. (04) 817-6567
Fax. (04) 473-4871
Rt Hon Helen Clark – Prime minister
Ph. (04) 471-9998
Fax. (04) 473-3579
PO Box 32
P O Box 3740
The Christchurch Press
Private Bag 4722
Otago Daily Times
PO Box 517,
Private Bag 3086
PO Box 1327
The Editor, Listener
PO Box 90 783
Auckland Mail Centre
The New Zealand Embassy in Bangkok (Thailand) (accredited to Burma)
M Thai Tower, 14th Floor
All Seasons Place, 87 Wireless Road
Lumpini, Bangkok 10330
(PO Box 2719, Bangkok 10500)
Ph: (66 2) 254 2530
Fax: (66 2) 253 9045
Embassy of the Union of Myanmar, Canberra (accredited to New Zealand)
22 Arkana Street, Yarralumla, Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia
Ph: (61 2) 6273 3811
Fax: (61 2) 6273 3181
The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website page on the agreement
The Irrawaddy magazine on-line covering Burmese news
More English-language news on Burma from the Democratic Voice of Burma
Burma Campaign New Zealand website