04 October 2006

China offers New Zealand skilled workers

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The New Zealand Government has received a request to allow skilled Chinese workers on temporary work permits into the country as part of a proposed free trade deal with China, the New Zealand Herald reports.

The paper claims China made the request during trade talks between the two countries in Auckland this week, and the paper says Trade Minister Phil Goff would look into the ‘sensitive’ request.

New Zealand may not fully endorse China’s offer to export skilled workers, but could grant concessions for Chinese chefs, traditional medicine specialists, Mandarin teachers and working holiday programmes for young Chinese.

Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai raised the issue as his country had an abundant labour resource to offer New Zealand.

He told the Herald: "Over the past few years the skills of our labour force have been considerably improved. That is testified by our ever-sharpened export capability for manufactured goods.

"Moreover, during the course of your economic development process, your country does need some more labour. I think this question can be discussed between the two sides on the basis of mutual benefit."

The reaction from labour unions to any trade deal that allows Chinese skilled workers into New Zealand was mixed, with fears that the availability of more migrant labour would reduce incentives to improve the skills and conditions of New Zealand workers.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union secretary Andrew Little though told the paper that as employers were already suffering from a shortage of skilled workers in industries such as manufacturing and boat-building, a solution would be welcomed.

"If it fills a gap we can't complain", he said.

Further trade talks between New Zealand and China are scheduled for next week.

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