Mike Moore Dedicated his Life to Helping NZ
Mike Moore, who served as New Zealand’s prime minister before leading the World Trade Organisation (WTO) during a tumultuous time when thousands protested in Seattle riots, has died in Auckland. He was 71. Associated Press correspondent Nick Perry writes about Moore’s legacy for an obituary published in The Scotsman.
Moore was an advocate for both advancing the rights of blue-collar workers and for expanding international trade, a combination which, to some, seemed at odds with itself. Although he had a long political career in New Zealand, Moore’s tenure as prime minister was brief: just two months in 1990 before he was defeated in an election.
He served as the third director-general of the WTO from 1999 until 2002, overseeing an expansion in the organisation including China’s entry into the rules-based trading system. He later served five years as New Zealand’s ambassador to the US.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Moore had dedicated his life to helping the country.
“The world lost a man with a huge intellect, and huge heart today,” Ardern said.
His wife, Yvonne Moore said Moore had an ability to connect with people from all walks of life after he left school at age 15 to take a job at a slaughterhouse.
“He was stubborn, optimistic, generous and kind,” she said in a statement.
He became known as a fighter for workers’ rights and for ordinary New Zealanders. He held a number of portfolios before his brief tenure as prime minister. After his election defeat in 1990, he became opposition leader for three years before Helen Clark took over the role.
When Moore became director-general of the WTO in 1999 it was the highest international role ever held by a New Zealander.
He believed that expanding international trade would benefit people around the world, but many people were becoming worried that trade liberalisation was degrading conditions for workers and creating other problems.
The “Battle in Seattle” in 1999 overshadowed Moore’s tenure at the WTO. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest WTO meetings in the city. Well-organised protest leaders managed to temporarily shut down some meetings and Seattle declared a state of emergency, with police using tear gas and pepper spray against the crowds.
“Never before had open trade within a rules-based system done so much to lift living standards and increase opportunity; yet never before had the persistence of poverty and exclusion been so glaring,” Moore later said. “In Seattle, the intersection of these interests became the site of a major pile-up, a collision, a clash of priorities and imperatives.”
In 1999, Moore was awarded this country’s highest honour, the Order of New Zealand.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said Moore would be remembered as one of the great New Zealanders, a man who was warm, passionate, funny, and mischievous.
Original article by Nick Perry, The Scotsman, February 4, 2020.
Photo by Rebekah Parsons.