With the signing of the recent FTA with China, the debate over the issue of free trade has been reignited among workers and left-wing political activists in New Zealand.
Many left union officials and members of political parties such as the Alliance have argued that immigration controls and tariffs must be retained to protect NZ jobs and businesses from being undercut by foreign competition.
By contrast the Workers Party strongly believes that this kind of economic protectionism is a poison which only serves to divide the international working class and encourages illusions in the “progressive” nature of local capitalists. We argue that the solution to NZ companies closing down production and laying off workers is not protectionism, but instead a militant union-led campaign to occupy all those businesses threatened with closure and keep them running under workers’ control.
Below we reprint an interview from 2004, in which Workers Party and Spark editorial board member Don Franks responds to a series of questions from an Alliance Party activist on the question of free trade and the approach that the left should take towards it: