The Trans Pacific Partnership was signed ceremonially yesterday. That means nothing. It just means Ministers from 12 nations staged a press conference where they took turns autographing a document.
The real struggle will be in the Parliaments, the Senates, the Houses of Representatives of a dozen different nations. The real struggle will be to persuade constituents that this is something that really is good. The struggle on the side of the proponents will most likely succeed in those places where the freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly are curtailed.
In the United States the passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership is by no means guaranteed. The Republicans are split. Donald Trump is not a supporter. Nor is Bernie Sanders in the Democrats caucus. Hillary cannot make her mind up.
What I find really interesting is that Fox News has waged war on President Barak Obama since he came into the White House. It has criticized him on everything, including what he does with his spare time, what his wife wears and what their daughters will do in the future. And yet, when good journalism is needed on the constitutional threat this T.P.P. poses to the United States – something Fox could have had a field day on – nary a word has been spoken or written.
In Japan a former Minister of Agriculture has taken court action to derail the Trans Pacific Partnership. Japanese Ministers are also divided on how much of it to accept, as not all want to drop tariffs.
In Australia, Labor and the Greens are against it to varying extents. Their population is not nearly as well organized or co-ordinated as New Zealand’s.
In Canada the new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has indicated that the Trans Pacific Partnership must be ratified by Parliament. Some of his Ministers have expressed concern with it as well.
Here in New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key faces a tough job selling it. Parliament is split 61-60 over it, based on how the voting for/against the Bill of Parliament that New Zealand First List M.P. Fletcher Tabuteau authored in 2015. The concerns about what it means for our ability to write our own laws, buy medicine at an affordable cost and whether we could be sued by overseas corporations all raise questions that have not been appropriately addressed. And with an election due in 2017 for a third term Government trying to do what few have managed to achieve – a fourth term in office – the real challenge might simply be being around long enough to enact it.
All the effort in the past 4 years to bring the T.P.P. into the public focus was about exactly that, and making sure that Government understands that this is something New Zealanders will not let them off the hook on. It was about the various factions to collaborate in a concerted effort hold politicians to account. With the stage set, now the real struggle begins.