When it comes to signing trade deals there are two principles which should never be up for negotiation; the net benefit to your country has to outweigh any concessions, otherwise what’s the point? And you never trade away fundamentals, like the right to legislate to protect your environment, the health of your citizens, or your education system.


The National government hasn’t been able to reassure us that they really will protect these principles in their secret Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

I don’t have a problem with the draft negotiating document remaining secret. I don’t need to know what’s being said behind closed doors as the twelve participating countries try to keep Japan on side, and Japan tries to keep tariffs on its beef, dairy, rice and sugar.

Good luck with that.

But the government should be encouraging public debate on the issues around TPP; like fears that tobacco companies will threaten to sue governments for plain packaging; our ongoing ability to buy cheap medicines through Pharmac; or threats to outlaw parallel importing.

Then people will feel like they’re having a say, their concerns are being heard, and any nutty conspiracy theories won't get airtime.

The National government hasn't done a good job of selling the benefits of a TPP deal. They’ll have only themselves to blame if our parliament fails to ratify something they haven’t asked us to believe in.

Because TPP could be a game-changer for our economy. 

If the biggest economics in the world remove their tariffs to the products of TPP member countries, imagine if we weren’t part of that? It could cost us not to be part of TPP. Korea has a FTA with Chile which means that Chile can sell its kiwifruit to Korea tariff free. Our kiwifruit exporters have to pay a 43% tariff. We simply can’t compete. Imagine if that were true in nearly all the APEC countries, from Canada and the US to Mexico and Japan?

Compare the TPP process to the long negotiations led by Labour’s Trade Minister Phil Goff to get a  FTA with China. Phil Goff not only encouraged public debate, he took the critics of free trade like the CTU and Greenpeace on board, even taking them to China with him so our union representatives could meet Chinese unions, for example. 

He took a bi-partisan approach to all trade negotiations. Tim Grocer, opposition trade spokesperson at the time, got to go with him to Hong Kong during trade negotiations. I’m not sure the invitation has been reciprocated today.

Phil Goff did that because there were real fears in New Zealand that our small country of four million people would be swamped by a country of 1.3 billion. He recognised that the best way to alleviate those fears was to be inclusive and make his critics part of the process.

Today our exports have risen from $2 billion to $11 billion, largely due to access to Chinese markets for our dairy products. And the trade balance is in New Zealand’s favour. We sell more to them than they sell to us.

Infact there’s a really good sales job to be made about why we do trade deals which is nothing to do with trade. Just look at the EU. To qualify for membership of the EU trade block, former Soviet countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary and Estonia had to improve their labour laws, increase the minimum wage, and demonstrate their workplaces were safe. So there can be social benefits if a trade deal is done well. Not to mention the public good of a united Europe, no longer torn apart by war. (The best thing that could happen to prevent more violence in Ukraine would be for the country to join the EU.)

Why isn’t the National government giving us an idea of what some of the social benefits of the TPP might be for us? We may not be an emerging country about to improve our labour laws to qualify. But imagine if countries like Malaysia and Vietnam have to increase their wages and improve their work places? New Zealand workers wouldn’t have to compete with low wage workers in poorer countries.

National needs to do a better job of involving us all in the horse trading that goes on to get a deal like TPP across the line. It'll be too late once a non-negotiable draft reaches parliament for ratification.

 

 

Comments (5)

by Che Nua on June 24, 2014
Che Nua

This should be a key election issue

by Alan Johnstone on June 24, 2014
Alan Johnstone

It's the clearest case I've seen for a binding referendum 

by Draco T Bastard on June 24, 2014
Draco T Bastard

The National government hasn't done a good job of selling the benefits of a TPP deal.

That's because there aren't any. Hard to sell something that doesn't exist.

Because TPP could be a game-changer for our economy. 

Only if by "game changer" you mean make us more poverty stricken.

We simply can’t compete.

Why are we even trying to? There isn't any need to do so.

Not to mention the public good of a united Europe, no longer torn apart by war. (The best thing that could happen to prevent more violence in Ukraine would be for the country to join the EU.)

But seemingly getting closer to it partly because of the existence of the EU. And your ignorant comment shows why. Trade was born in war and bloodshed and hasn't rsulted in peace yet because some arseholes keep trying to dictate to others how they should live and to open up their borders so that they can be exploited by the US Oligarches and other rich pricks.

Lesson: Africa grew more and eradicated more poverty under strict import controls than it did under free trade. In fact, it got worse under free trade. Same is happening in NZ.

Why isn’t the National government giving us an idea of what some of the social benefits of the TPP might be for us?

Because there won't be any. If anything, we'll be worse off.

But imagine if countries like Malaysia and Vietnam have to increase their wages and improve their work places? New Zealand workers wouldn’t have to compete with low wage workers in poorer countries.

That won't come about from free-trade deals. The only way that will come about is the people in those places standing up for their rights and ensuring that they're respected. Same as we did in NZ - until the 4th Labour government threw them all out so as to impress the oligarches.

by Matthew Whitehead on June 24, 2014
Matthew Whitehead

I'm not sure how anyone who claims to be anywhere left of National can claim with a straight face that the TPP could have net benefit to New Zealand. It's best described as a corporate sovereignty deal, it won't give us any significant gains to agricultural access, it would most likely cost us MORE than any potential trade gains from the medical "reforms" in the treaty alone, effectively killing Pharmac, and it's likely to have a pretty devastating effect on our burgeoning artistic and IT industries with its draconian IP provisions.

That's not even mentioning the policy-laundering connotations of allowing deals negotiated in secret to be passed into law. While people often joke about parliament being like a sausage factory (possibly, in that it's full of far too many men) and not wanting to see the sausage made, in reality we know that it's important that even if we don't want to watch it ourselves all the time, it's important that we be able to. It helps keep people honest when they know we can hold them accountable for what they say. There is not accountability when deals are negotiated in secret, and that's simply not reasonable. The public has a right to know who's proposing ideas, and who's lobbying them.

While I support the idea of cautiously removing barriers to trade and allowing more free movements of goods and people, there has yet to be a deal that even approaches "free trade." Why? Because free trade removes IP protections. Free trade allows free migration, something that countries are dead set against. Free trade allows open information and relies on informed markets. Free trade relies on goods being moved only by markets, not by war, theft, oppression, or other non-economic factors. We won't ever get a full "free trade" world, because the world is more complicated than a model. But if we opened up trade a lot more, it could be good- if it's on terms that benefit ordinary people primarily, and puts large corporations second.

by Draco T Bastard on June 27, 2014
Draco T Bastard

This one was amusing:

 Here’s one theory on the steps the Chamber took to derive its estimate of the TPP’s prospective impact:

  1. Copy
  2. Paste

This is not the first time the Chamber has used the number 700,000. Indeed, the Chamber appears to have an uncanny affinity for the number when pushing a retrograde, anti-worker agenda. 

And now we're hearing of even more secret deals:

Hundreds of millions of people remember the GFC only too well. Most of them are still living it.

But the global players from Wall Street and The City, and their patron states the United States and European Union, want to lock in and extend their failed model of in perpetuity. Nuts? You bet.

Is New Zealand in there too? Right again.

You really have to question why politicians and corporations keep doing the same things over and over again after they've been proven not to work. Is it really insanity or do they know they won't work but that those policies advance their own goals?

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