Text of T.P.P.A. replacement to be released

A few weeks ago, New Zealand First betrayed its membership by deciding to support Labour’s attempt to advance the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. Many said that they would quit the party over it and the party has slumped in the most recent Colmar Brunton Poll to just 3%.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that she will unveil the text of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement’s replacement, the so called Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (or C.P.T.P.P.)on Wednesday. Ms Ardern insists that the C.P.T.P.P. is a significant step forward for New Zealand trade development. New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters, who believes that his party can now support the agreement, says that the clauses that made the party oppose it have now been removed and he can tolerate it.

WRONG. The clauses have not been removed. They have only been suspended in an attempt to get United States President Donald Trump to back track on his withdrawal of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement a few days after he took office. No changes of substance have been made and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is still the trojan horse it was before Mr Trump decided to withdraw the United States from it.

Nothing has changed in other words.

I support New Zealand developing strong trade relations with other nations. But there are checks and balances that should be in place before we have these agreements. The purpose of these checks and balances is to make sure that due process is followed and that the Agreement in whatever form it turns out to be, really will help New Zealand. For this to happen New Zealand First’s “Fight Foreign Corporate Control Bill should have been advanced instead of being shot down by National and A.C.T. on the grounds of being “anti-trade”.

There is a clearly defined difference between having a trade deal and undermining New Zealand so that it is more susceptible to corporate takeover. Having a trade deal means New Zealand can conduct trade with the nations that it negotiated the deal/s in question with. New Zealand respects them as nations and they respect us. Businesses are invited to submit concerns and suggestions at the select committee stage and the committee draft recommendations that are then agreed to or dropped. A corporate deal that favours multinationals and undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty does no such thing.

So I wait with baited breath to see what happens to this dastardly agreement in its latest phase. But this particular deal is not one New Zealand should be proud of or a part of.

New Zealand First betrays members with T.P.P.A. support

For six years New Zealand First was one of the stalwart parties in New Zealand opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership. From the first rumblings about the danger it posted in 2011, through to Fletcher Tabuteau’s Bill of Parliament attempting to derail the T.P.P.A. New Zealand First consistently campaigned against it.

As a former New Zealand First member, their decision to support the T.P.P.A. is a major betrayal of the party. It is a major betrayal of the principles on which the party was founded and completely undermines the hard work done by so many party members and Members of Parliament who attended and organized protests and public meetings, petitioned the public, made submissions and so forth.

In the end the only party that has steadfastly opposed the T.P.P.A. from start to finish has been the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand. This will likely draw some people who might have otherwise voted for New Zealand First away from the party that supposedly stood for common sense.

I do not know if I can continue supporting New Zealand First. One of the primary reasons for voting for them was toderail the T.P.P.A. Another one of the reasons donating to them up to May last year was to help get more anti-T.P.P.A. candidates into Parliament.

The reasons for steadfastly opposing the T.P.P.A. are pretty simple. It is not a free or fair trade deal in that much of it was written at the behest of faceless corporations. The Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement clauses were never fully removed or effectively neutralized. Thus a corporation can still take the New Zealand Government to court for passing legislation that the corporation does not like. The T.P.P.A. also threatens to undermine the social, environmental and human rights framework of New Zealand. That is not okay.

I am too conservative for the Green Party, but I can see them doing well at New Zealand First’s expense in 2020.

T.P.P. name change should not fool anyone

So the T.P.P.A. negotiators changed the name of their baby. The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement has now become the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The change of name to the C.P.T.P.P. should not fool anyone. Nor should the the attempt to water it down. Whilst I certainly approve of any attempt to weaken it, the best thing that can happen to the C.P.T.P.P. is what I have said all along: LET IT DIE.

We need to have comprehensive trade relations and that is something I have said consistently all along.  What we do not need is a huge clumsy, ambiguous deal that is not clear on New Zealand sovereignty – I honestly thought concluding a trade agreement would result in a relatively small document, and not something considerably larger than what I imagine the U.S. Federal Tax Code to be when you stack it up all in paper.

There are other reasons why New Zealand should not need the C.P.T.P.P. or T.P.P or whatever you want to call it. We are known for playing by the rules that are set down by the World Trade Organization and that New Zealand negotiators are for the most part honest and transparent. That should give nations wanting to negotiate deals confidence to come to us direct and talk instead of trying to achieve what I thought was an impossible ask even if the T.P.P. was an appropriate format in which to be conducting trade negotiations. With 12 nations on board and thereby 12 separate sets of domestic demands that need to be met, there was never a doubt in my mind that one nation or another would eventually throw their toys out of the cot over something – the U.S. has withdrawn; Canada staged a bizarre no show and Japan and other nations including New Zealand had significant domestic resistance that needed to be addressed.

The trade agreements we have, I accept. If they are being negotiated, one of the things I would like to see inserted is a review clause that ensures all deals are up for review after x (say 20)years. If they are several years old like the 2008 New Zealand-China F.T.A., then we should talk to the other nation/s involved about agreeing to have a review within a few years.

Even though the Government says it has got New Zealand a better deal, it does not change the fact that the C.P.T.P.P. is no better than its poorly conceived predecessor. And like its predecessor, it deserves the same fate.

Let it die. Now.

Ardern meets Trump

The handshake was not a crusher. Unlike the potentially crushing power of the office of the man who shook Prime Minister Jacinda Arderns hand earlier today. As T.P.P. negotiations roll on we look at the major issues where New Zealand and America might dis/agree on.

It will be interesting to see how a decidedly left leaning New Zealand Government will get on with the most far right Government America has ever had. Mr Trump stands for a lot of the things that Ms Ardern and her Labour/New Zealand First/Green Party coalition balk at point blank, such as considering military spending as essential to the economy, cutting taxes, rolling back environmental laws and getting out of the Paris Climate Accord.

Mr Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement within a couple of days of taking office in January. Despite most of the Labour Party grass roots and both of her support parties being totally against the T.P.P.A., Ms Ardern seems content to sign the agreement with a few more concessions. Mr Trump is on this rare occasion on the right side of history, whereas New Zealand and the other countries negotiating are going to end up on the wrong side.

Mr Trump’s administration might not yet be fully aware of New Zealand’s attempts to get some of the refugees from Manus Island. How much it impacts on a supposed deal being negotiated between Australia and the United States remains to be seen. It would not be the first time New Zealand has interceded on Australian refugee. We took some of the refugees from the M.V. Tampa, a freighter that the John Howard Government claimed was carrying terrorists and baby drowners in 2001. Those refugees turned out to be quite an asset, with all contributing substantially to their adopted New Zealand communities, setting up small businesses and becoming doctors and lawyers. Hopefully Mr Trump sees the Australian xenophobia for what it is and offers to take some instead of being sucked into Peter Duttons hate machine.

New Zealand is a small bit player in the North Korean issue, but a potentially valuable one. Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has had prior experience negotiating with North Koreans and they invited him to visit Pyongyang, something that few other leaders have been offered. Aside from supporting the rule of international law at the United Nations and trying to get all sides to dial down the rhetoric, there is not realistically much else that New Zealand can help the United States with on this topic. No one will win if a war starts on this.

On the subject of climate change, New Zealand needs to stand firm, invest heavily in renewables and look at what sorts of environmentally responsible technologies it can develop, patent and export overseas. In short it needs to go in the opposite direction to the United States, which will find itself isolated by the international community in some respects – something New Zealand cannot afford to do.

Mr Trumps performance on the world stage, including his bellicose rhetoric against North Korea and Iran will also be watched closely. When he tweets the world takes notice just incase it is a foreign policy announcement. No doubt Ms Ardern and her press secretary keep close tabs on @realDonaldTrump and @POTUS.

America’s black and white view of the world ignores many, many shades of grey. New Zealanders seem to understand that they exist, but not why. Understanding those shades and where they fit into the spectrum – whether we agree with their purpose being another story altogether – is important, as is getting past the left-right political spectrum which is thoroughly redundant. Perhaps the most important thing though is not following this nonsense of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Whilst this remains the thinking in Washington, we need to keep America at arms length, something I think Ms Ardern understands, but Mr Trump does not.

T.P.P.A. dead? GOOD!

Last night it emerged that Canada had stalled the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement talks. The surprise move not only caught delegates off guard, but raised hopes that the controversial agreement might have been dealt a blow.

For proponents of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, this is alarming news. Former Minister of Trade and a staunch proponent of the agreement Todd McClay went on the record as saying that it was vitally important to restart the agreement talks this weekend and that they needed to be successful or it would collapse. Mr McClay and his predecessors believe it is important for New Zealand to be a part of a 12 nation agreement that would create a large free trade zone across much of the Pacific. Neither he nor his predecessor would address the arguments that the T.P.P.A. is bad for New Zealand. Specifically the following areas:

  • That as a result of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (I.S.D.S.) clauses New Zealand Governments could be exposed to legal action by corporations over perceived threats to their ability to make a profit
  • That the ability to write laws and uphold and improve our domestic and international obligations might be impeded by a fear of said exposure
  • That existing laws might be undermined

For opponents, this could be an early Christmas. Hopes that the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement would be killed rose in January when President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order killing America’s involvement in the 12 nation agreement, which then became T.P.P.-11. They were then dented severely when the agreement showed signs of being revived despite Japanese delegates holding steadfast in their demands that Japanese industries not have protective tariffs removed. Hopes took another hit when it was announced that whilst in Vietnam there would be a further attempt to restart the talks that had nearly brought the Agreement to fruition.

Now Canada has suddenly balked. I find the claim that it misunderstood the time schedule for the meetings to be a bit far fetched. But for a moment let us suppose it is true. If true then that is an embarrassment for Canada that a Government minister could not turn up at an agreed time and place, and unfortunate for the anti-T.P.P.A. campaign because it means that the Agreement is still on.

And yet the claim “I didn’t know this was when I was supposed to be here”, coming from a Canadian Government Minister seems just a bit too far fetched to be entirely true. One shall have to give the Minister the benefit of the doubt, but if he is covering up, that raises potentially all sorts of intriguing possibilities.

Time shall tell.