Two things you can do to stop the TPPA


Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 8.16.35 am

If you were one of the 10,000 plus Kiwis who joined the national day of action against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) last November, we need you to join us again on Saturday 7 March – and bring 5 new mates along – to tell the government: “TPPA: No Deal!” At least 16 different parts of the country have so far put their hands up to organise some action. That’s what democracy looks like!

I can hear some of you sighing ‘oh, not again’. Believe me, there is no one who would rather stay home on 7 March and weed the garden or go for a picnic at the beach than me. But we are at the stage where complacency, saturation or boredom plays directly into the hands of the government, who have deliberately kept the TPPA out of the spotlight. Editors are turning down stories saying ‘there’s nothing new’. Once the TPPA is off the radar, the government is home and hosed.

The mobilisation on 7 March is not just a photo op – although there will be some great street theatre. It is make or break time for the TPPA and we need to inject a real sense of urgency into the campaign. Rhetoric about the ‘end game’ has been around for several years. This time is it true. Obama desperately wants to get the deal through as part of his legacy. For that to happen, people working the math in Washington say he needs a deal signed in May. Obama’s team is planning how to short-circuit the formal steps, especially in the US Congress, to make his legacy possible.

That timeframe puts all the other countries under extreme pressure to cave on remaining issues. It was clear from talking to officials in New York in January at the last secret squirrel round of talks that the technical negotiations are now basically over, aside from one more meeting for a small number of groups. We are now in the political zone. The current plan is for Ministers to meet in mid-March to conclude a deal, and have a formal signing probably sometime in May.

In an op-ed in the Herald on 6th February I explained why the elusive deal between Japan and the US is still the biggest barrier – and how left field demands from Congress for rules on ‘currency manipulation’, combined with the US blackmail process known as ‘certification’, are raising the political stakes in Japan even further. But we can’t simply assume that will save us.

Three months of intensive activity can stop the TPPA or at least put it into the deep freeze. Here is one thing you can do, in addition to joining the nationwide day of action on 7 March.

The inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement – ISDS – in free trade and investment treaties gives foreign investors the right to sue the government in secretive offshore tribunals of dubious legal legitimacy when new laws or policies seriously affect the investor’s value or future profits. They can claim hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, with the aim of getting governments to back off or forcing them to reverse the policy or fork out taxpayer money to foreign corporations. Think plain packaging tobacco.

TDB Recommends

Fortunately, we have signed very few of these agreements. The TPPA would be the granddaddy of them all, because it gives US TNCs a license to sue.

The government knows the sun is setting on these controversial powers internationally, and there is a groundswell of opinion against ISDS within New Zealand. But that has not stopped it from signing us up to another treaty that gives those powers to foreign investors from South Korea.

The New Zealand Korea Free Trade Agreement will be tabled in House very soon. It will go to a select committee for a Clayton’s hearing where neither the committee nor Parliament can make any change. Usually they hear from a handful of industry cheerleaders and a couple of critical academics and unionists, and the treaty becomes a done deal.

We want the select commute deluged with submissions from Kiwis from all walks of life who demand an end to ISDS in any New Zealand treaty. The select committee process is incredibly short, so there may only be a week to do this. To help people, the ItsOurFuture website will have a dedicated page with a standard form submission, as well as information for people wanting to tailor their own.

As many unions, health professionals, local councils, iwi, environment groups, local councils, mining campaigners, also need to highlight the risks to their constituency and insist that they want to appear before the committee. The web-based resources will be available later this week for people who want to prepare in advance. As soon the treaty reaches Parliament, the alarm bells will sound.

Hopefully, there will also be a members’ bill presented in the House around the same time calling for no ISDS in any future agreements, which can bring further pressure to bear on the issue.

The grand plan is to reinforce those submissions with adverts in the Auckland and Wellington papers on the morning of 7 March that is crowd-funded so people can put themselves on record as opposing ISDS in the TPPA or any other free trade and investment deal.


  1. Just an idea. It is my understanding that once this thing is signed that it will return to parliament for “discussion” and ratification. It is also my understanding that the terms of the agreement will not be subject to any change at this stage (of course any alteration would mean it would have to go back to other signees, wouldn’t it, if that were the case) and that ratification is almost a given – it will be expected by other signees and of course National will have numbers to do it.
    If this thing comes back with clauses in it that are not popular, we will actually have pretty much no way to do anything about them.
    Can you clarify that for us please, Jane, something that we can quote in any argument that we may find ourselves in about it. I think there are a lot of people out there, trusting that if we don’t like this deal, we can get rid of it, so that is an angle to urge them to approach this with a bit more caution.
    Cheers Rae

    • Hi Rae – yes you are correct about the agreement itself. See ‘Treaty-making 101’ for the details (

      The only power Parliament has is to block the amendment of any domestic law, eg the Patents Act, that would be required for us to comply with the TPPA obligations.

      If Parliament refused to pass that law, it would not change the TPPA. Rather it would create a conflict between our domestic law and the TPPA. That is not a problem until the TPPA comes into force (which is done by the Cabinet not the Parliament).

      The US would insist that we passed the new law before it allowed it to come into force. That is not as reassuring as it might seem – think of all the times the government has caved in to US demands. For examples of the dirty process of US blackmail known as ‘certification’ see the stories of Peru and Australia on

      Once it has come into force we are open to a dispute by another state under the TPPA, and in some circumstances by foreign investors with an commercial interest.

  2. I have a feeling that you underestimate the hatred that the Republicans hold for Obama. They would eat their own children if he remarked that they look unappetizing. There is no way they are likely to allow him any legacy, no matter the advantages to themselves.
    In the meanwhile, have any sources among the many countries involved actually leaked anything credible to give us an idea of the current state of play? Someone must surely have let the cat out of the bag somewhere. Do you have anywhere we can look?

    • That may well be true of the Congress, but sadly that seems unlikely stop the other governments from signing. Even that fact that Congress can pick apart the deal without ‘fast track’ authority, and the certification blackmail process at the end, may not deter them from making the trade-offs. Then we become dependent on the unpleasant politics of the Congress – which could go in many different ways.

      An assessment of the issues up for ministerial decision is currently being prepared.

  3. I sincerely hope the media is out in force to record the protests,but don’t hold your breathe the Herald is a support for John Key whatever he does , lets hope the real journalists do something ,TPP will affect everyone for generations if allowed to go ahead.
    Media generally ignors the news of protesters,on orders from JKs bosses from America, the protesters have to make a gigantic effort to draw attention,. Nat supporters even if they own loads of houses and have pots of money they and their families will suffer the consequences of TPP
    We all know TPP is a big corporation money and control grab, and Key is their puppet, obviously he dosnt care about NZ so why support him?
    Step up all you NZs whoever you voted for ,this is the death knell to our way of life stop your bias and do the right thing.

  4. I just hope everyone who can gets out there to protest. I read that on March the 26th 2013 Obama put through the “Monsanto Protection Act” which the Federal Court is baned from being able to halt sale or distribution of GMO and GE seeds, no matter what the health issue. It`s stuff they`re already doing in their own country that frightens me and we should use as a warning.

  5. If the TPPA goes ahead, it will be the beginning of the end, in my opinion. I shall be there on the 7th – if only for future generations sake.

  6. Good on you Prof Kelsey . I was at the Ch Ch rally and I wanted to over-turn cars and throw bricks through windows but the local vest wearing Green MP cautioned against that, instead preferring to whisper mantras while eating cabbage soup and humming kumbaya .
    All I got out of that rally was a warm item of clothing to guard against the fresh easterlies that plague Ch Ch and an epic attack of the farts .

    Be warned ! The Confederates will be honing their quelling skills so I say let your instinct be your guide and rough up any bastard who wants a sit-down-and-cuddle-kittens approach to a hugely dark and extremely scary threat to what little we have left of our Kiwi way of life .

  7. For a preview of how badly we’ll be screwed by the multinationals if TPP goes ahead, watch John Oliver’s piece last night on the tobacco giants. They’re menacing little countries like Togo and Uruguay to force them to back away from plain packaging for cigarettes… And that’s happening under CURRENT trade rules.

  8. The only way to stop the TPP is to get rid of John Key before he has chance to sign the deal ,if he hasn’t already,he has been all for it right from the start even helped set it up,he probably stands to gain from the deal
    Surely with all the filthy acts and lies he has got away with we have plenty of reasons he should go. Lets do it

Comments are closed.