Great work on 29th and the ANZAC spirit deserts the TPPA




Groser and co would have been spitting tacks last week as the ANZAC spirit deserted the TPPA negotiations. Australia has done a deal directly with Japan which undercuts the demand for Japan to opening all agriculture in the TPPA. It leaves New Zealand struggling, more than ever, to get even the dust from the crumbs on the TPPA table. More on what that means later in the blog.

First up, a great thank you to everyone who turned out, in body or in spirit, on the national day of action against the TPPA on 29th.

I don’t think there has ever been a mobilisation like that in towns and cities across the country to oppose one of these agreements – even the MAI back in the 1990s, although Maori did manage a hikoi over the Auckland harbour bridge!

The most exciting thing for me is that this happened because people in all parts of Aotearoa spontaneously wanted to do something to stop the TPPA and started to organise among themselves.

There was great support from the sponsors: Oxfam, Greenpeace, CAFCA, the NZCTU and lots of the unions. All the opposition parties were on board. Greens, NZ First, Mana and the Maori Party spoke at many of the protests, plus a last minute appearance from David Cunliffe in Auckland – once it was clear that Labour would look pathetic if they didn’t appear. Better late than never, but still not far enough.

Above all, it was the huge energy on the ground, with coordinators in the centres and Ed Miller and Chris Zack nationally, that made it work. If you haven’t seen the roundup, including the massive media overage, go to or the face book. Thanks also to the tweet team at #TPPANoWay.

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Already people are asking when the next protest will be. Setting an arbitrary date doesn’t make much sense. But the secret squirrel bullshit continues, which makes it hard to pin down the next big target.

The groundwork has been done to mobilise at short notice. Word can get around fast. Keep the placards and banners at the ready – better still, put them in your window or on your fence.

We have just heard that the chief negotiators will meet in Vietnam from 12-15 May. That’s just before the trade ministers from the TPPA countries meet in China. We suspect they may have a ministerial meeting after that in Vietnam but only if Obama has made a breakthrough with Japan. The ministers won’t want to meet again if they come away with another ‘failed’ ministerial. Watch this space…

Which brings me back to Australia’s potential sabotage.

Australia has been negotiating a free trade agreement with Japan since 2005. It was stuck on agriculture into Japan and cars from Japan to Oz. Now that Abbott’s Liberals have sacrificed the car industry, with tens out thousands of jobs, they have cleared the way for trade-offs with Japan on agriculture.

There is scant detail. No text will be available for at least another month – conveniently after the TPPA ministers are next together in China. But it is clear that Australia has settled for far less on agriculture from Japan than is being demanded in the TPPA. There also seems to be no investor-state dispute settlement in the agreement.

Why could this be a deal-breaker? The Abbott government has promised to safeguard Japan’s five sacred products (rice, sugar, beef and pork, wheat and dairy) in the TPPA. Now it has given up a small amount of some of those to Australia. Those concessions will already create a furore in the Diet.

Obama is due to visit Japan from 23 to 25 April, where he was hoping to broker a deal. The talks on agriculture were already bogged down, with the US demanding much more than Japan was prepared to give.

Now Australia has undercut the ‘gold standard’ the US and NZ were demanding from Japan, and got first dibs on the total that Japan might be prepared to offer.

Further, Australia is entitled to anything better that Japan offers the US or others. That increases the political costs to the Abbott government if Japan makes any better deal with the US.

Why has Australia done this? Some suggest that Australia doesn’t think the TPPA is going to fly, so it has done the best deal it thinks it can with Japan. Other say Australia wanted to get something from the TPPA, so had to get in before the US.

If the US is unhappy about this, Groser must be distraught. He has insisted there must be comprehensive liberalisation of all agricultural products, even if it is phased over a long time – and he has consistently said he will walk away if that is not achieved. Australia has basically pulled the rug from under him.

It’s time for Tim to face reality. New Zealand has nothing to bargain with and no political leverage. The risks to our sovereignty from the TPPA are simply too high, and the prospects for economic benefits are even lower than before. Walk away Tim, walk away!



  1. Relatively smart of Abbott really – and in Australia’s interests. It’s such a shame our scabrous politicians can’t ever think of New Zealand’s interests. Who do they think pays their wages?

    The Japanese will be much happier with Australian beef too – no US mad cow rubbish being forced on them, again, something Groser should have thought about. These are the same muffins who took all our tarriffs off to find the US doesn’t like free trade after all. And they haven’t learned a thing from the experience.

    • Who do they think pays their wages?

      In the case of our PM I think you’ll find that it’s the banks.

      • Well, given that NZ taxpayers give him only slightly less than the US gives Obama, time he started paying it back.

        I guess he and Judith Collins should be paying secondary tax on their parliamentary salaries too – their primary employer being Oravida.

  2. Our Minister had a feed,came home,and our country prospered.Is that not we do, advance our countries prosperity,other than argue who was sitting at the table.

  3. it is not a FTA unless it is a FTA without conditions’ the USA and the Japanese are never going to give free access to NZ Agricultural products into their respective countries, not in a million years.

  4. Thanks for the update, Prof; surely this pig of a deal now has too much excess baggage to be able to fly. One hopes Groser will soon stop having porky dreams of flight, but this may not happen while he still has a seat on the gravy train.

  5. The Thieves , liars and swindlers have made their money defrauding the dozy farmer over the past 70 years or so and now they feel comfortable with giving the old agricultural nag a bit of slack on the reigns . The problem for them though is that they have to convince all our traditional trading partners , trading partners who became absolutely dependent on our food and other produce shipped to them , that we are once again dependable reliable and trustworthy . And would also want us to buy their goods in return . ( Some say that our unreliability due to political tinkering for fun and profit was a catalyst for the formation of the EEC . )
    Only fair , one would think .
    One would also ponder why then did holyoak sell us out to our largest competitor , Australia , for 50 million and basically forced the NZ consumer to start buying their cars , and dreadful cars they were , amongst other items from them ?
    And before someone points out that Australia is one of our largest trading partners ? Think very carefully before you do so . Understand the abstract nature of the wee beastie .

  6. This is how FTA negotiations work. Any country can try and do any FTA with any other country as they please, unless they are kept from doing so by certain other, wider reaching agreements. Australia has just done that, and the US will do the same, and New Zealand also, should they manage to stitch other separate deals up.

    What we have is a world of governments of states, friendly or less friendly with each other, competing with each other for the best deals, by lowering the standards or controls. And the deals are always just the “best” for the few business lobby groups and their members, who earn and profit through these deals.

    Workers gain little or nothing, as their wages will be costs that the employers will have to compete on, with other players in other “markets”.

    Welcome to the future that is already here, that has already been here for decades, what is new about all this?

    I actually doubt the TPPA will ever really be agreed on and finalised, and if it will, it will be so watered down, and full of exception clauses, it will be more or less irrelevant.

    And forget not also, the “lower” prices that Pharmac offer us is only, because they buy generic products from low wage countries, where the manufacturers still make nice profits for the bosses and owners, but the workers get paid less than if they worked for global corporations. This is a debate that should go much further, than about TPPA, FTAs and all this stuff, but I fear it has become largely symbolic, and not really enough of one based on substance.

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