27 Jul 2006

Oxfam NZ welcomes Tonga's delay in joining WTO

7:27 pm on 27 July 2006

The NGO Oxfam New Zealand has welcomed Tonga's delay in joining the World Trade Organisation.

Tonga's Prime Minister, Dr Feleti Sevele, announced earlier this week that his government would put off joining until other issues affecting the country are addressed.

Don Wiseman has more

"OXFAM says Tonga is to be congratulated for its willingness to engage in consultation and research on the likely impacts of the deal. Executive Director Barry Coates says it is a great sign for the future of government accountability in Tonga that the voices of the people have been heard. He says a survey found that nearly 90 percent of Tongans wanted a delay in accession to the WTO until there has been more consultation. Mr Coates says the commitments made by Tonga would force the country to cut tariffs to such low levels there would be serious impacts on the country's ability to provide essential services. He says New Zealand needs to live up to its rhetoric about being a good Pacific neighbour and work to reform the WTO accession process. Mr Coates says this is particularly important as Samoa is preparing to join and is likely to face similarly onerous conditions as those placed on Tonga."