Thursday, July 23, 2015

Labour’s TPPA bottom line

I oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), currently being negotiated in secret, because of what it will do to the countries that sign it. Today the New Zealand Labour Party released what they call their “Bottom Lines”. It’s a really good start.

The TPPA started out as a free trade agreement among several Pacific nations, including New Zealand, but everything took a rather dark turn when the United States joined the negotiations. Everything about those negotiations is meant to be top secret, and anyone revealing what’s in it can be sent to jail. That’s clearly intended to frustrate democracy and democratic oversight, and to put a chill on people’s democratic rights to debate important political issues.

However, big corporations are allowed to see the negotiating text of the TPPA, even if ordinary people are forbidden to do so. That should ring major alarms for anyone who cherishes democracy.

“The lack of transparency around the Government’s negotiations with large foreign interests means Kiwis are in the dark about which of their sovereign rights are being gambled away by this Government in the hope of better trade conditions,” according to Labour Party Leader, Andrew Little. He’s exactly right.

The problem with the anti-democratic secrecy is that national legislatures will only get see the final agreement once the negotiations are concluded, and by then it will be too late. The NZ National Party, currently leading the government, will order its vassals to vote for it: The one-man parties of Peter Dunne (United Future “Party”) and David Seymour (ACT “Party”), as well as their allied party, the Maori Party.

So, the only way to make clear what’s unacceptable NOW is to release bottom lines, as Labour has done. They are:
  • Pharmac must be protected
  • Corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest
  • New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farm land and housing to non-resident foreigner buyers
  • The Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld
  • Meaningful gains are made for our farmers in tariff reductions and market access
Under the parts that have been leaked, by Wikileaks or others, we know that none of these would have been met during the early stages of negotiation, but we cannot know if they’re still included or not—but they probably are, because that would benefit big US corporations.

The NZ Labour Party is not reflexively against free trade agreements. In fact, one of the last things it did when it was the previous government was to negotiate a free trade deal with China (which was not even remotely as contentious as this one). The argument with TPPA boils down to who will be telling New Zealand what to do? Will it be the people of New Zealand or foreign corporations ordering us to do what they demand?

Andrew Little is exactly right: “The bottom line for Labour is that New Zealand’s sovereign rights must be protected. Anything else is unacceptable.”

I agree. And Labour’s position makes it clear the high bar the TPPA would have to clear in order to win support, something I’d wager it cannot do. This also provides a good tool to organise opposition to the agreement while we still can.

Related: For now, the New Zealand group fighting the TPPA is It’s Our Future, which has information and resources for stopping the TPPA, though the website is awful and seldom updated.

The graphic above was shared on Facebook by the New Zealand Labour Party.

No comments: