Trump victory raises questions about Free Trade Agreements

The Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum has told the United States that with or without it, the other member states shall trade. The statement came at the end of a forum that has been overshadowed by the electoral fallout of Donald Trump’s victory and uncertainty about what the near future holds as America gets ready for a protectionist President.

As well as expressions of despair, for the New Zealand delegation, after years of co-operation between the National-led Government of Prime Minister John Key and United States President Barak Obama, this has led to a refocussing of negotiating efforts. The change in emphasis comes as a result of Mr Trump’s renewed statements that he will walk away from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, which Mr Obama has been a staunch advocate for. Instead of focussing on traditional friend the United States, Mr Key has pushed hard for an upgraded version of the Free Trade Agreement we have with China.

For nations at large, the prospects of renewed tariff barriers might be met with frustration by the chief negotiators. However they ignore – in large part because it is not in their remit to pay attention to such matters, but also would be likely philosophically opposed – concerns about the environmental, human rights and socio-economic effects the F.T.A.’s that they negotiate have on the participating countries.

Mr Trump’s victory raises questions not only about the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, which New Zealand’s delegation want to proceed with, but also the North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, Canada and the United States. It also raises questions about the T.T.I.P. agreement with Europe, giving critics there who have voiced concerns about loss of jobs, environmental protection and national sovereignty.

But how much will Mr Trump actually change? Is this just angry rhetoric to continue pleasing the voters who support his platform, or will Mr Trump make deep seated changes that a generation or more from now we are experiencing the full effects of?

Free Trade Agreements, since they have not been processed by Parliament with the necessary checks and balances to protect our sovereignty are not all that their proponents make them out to be. And would New Zealanders – if they ever saw the text of an agreement laid down in layman’s English – ever agree to one upon realizing what an undertaking it would be for their country? I am not sure that they would.

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