The date has been set: the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement will be signed in New Zealand on 04 February 2016.
For the governments of twelve nations, this will be a major litmus test to see how well their people respond to a new Free Trade Agreement – one of the largest ever conceived. It will also be a moment of huge pride for them, being able to say that they have fulfilled a promise to take down barriers to free trade with other nations. For Prime Minister John Key and recently resigned Tim Groser, who has now left Parliament to take up an Ambassadorship to none other than the United States, this is the defining moment of their entire trade agenda. This is what they want to be remembered by.
And remember it New Zealand shall – as one of the dodgiest international agreements of any sort that we have entered into, roundly despised by human rights activists, environmentalists, civil libertarians, lawyers as well as many businesses who are concerned that it will crush small Ma and Pa stores. It is an agreement that says not a word about how it should tackle the ever encroaching issue of climate change. It is an agreement with apparently only five chapters out of 29 devoted to actual trade.
It is an agreement that has politicians ringing the alarm bells in the centre and left wing parts of the New Zealand political spectrum. From Winston Peters, leader of New Zealand First to the Greens, and most recently Labour the chorus of defiance is growing. Even the Maori Party is coming out in opposition, having finally realized that it will undermine the effect of their Treaty of Waitangi settlements, and thus be hugely damaging not only to them, but to Aotearoa at large. Aside from National, whose Members of Parliament have had their hands tied by the Prime Minister, only the one man bands of Peter Dunne and David Seymour support the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.
And how will it be implemented? The next two years are loaded with political events of both national and international significance. Before the year 2016 ends the U.S. will elect a new President, which will effectively tie up the United States – i.e. distract them – from about now until 2017. This is also election year in Australia, where the government of Malcolm Turnbull, who succeeded Tony Abbott after a caucus revolt will be up for election. Although Mr Turnbull has managed to undo some of the damage Mr Abbotts Government did, he faces a significant fight with a Labor Party that smells blood. That will tie up Australia somewhat as well.
And then there is New Zealand. The current Parliamentary term ends in 2017 and politicians will be on the campaign trail from probably not later than August 2017. As National is in its third term of holding office, the historic odds do not favour a fourth term in Government. The polls still favour National, but the winds of change are starting to blow.
So, anyway, whilst we wait for 04 February 2016 to roll around, here is a reading assignment.