I hope this is the third-last blog I will write on the TPPA – the final one being its obituary. D-Day is expected to be a meeting of ministers from the 12 countries around 25 May, probably in Singapore. After that the window is expected to close on Obama’s chance to get it through in his term.
That means 6 weeks to intensify the pressure on Key, Groser and co not to sign a deal – and to send a message to future governments, including any led by Labour, that they can expect a repeat of this campaign if they try it again.
What do we need to focus on for the next six weeks? Some things are beyond our control – like whether Obama and Abe can agree on agriculture and autos when they meet in Washington at the end of this month. If they can’t we have more room to breathe.
But if Obama and Abe can agree on terms, then it’s all on. Groser will insist that he can get a bonanza for Fonterra. Of course, that is never going to happen but we can’t prove it until it’s too late.
Don’t let him get away with that.
One way of stopping Groser is to ramp up the opposition to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) – the special rights for foreign investors to sue the government in shonky offshore tribunals.
Since my last blog praising NZ First’s ‘Fighting Foreign Corporate Control Bill’ that says ‘never again’, Wikileaks has posted the almost-completed investment chapter dated 20 January 2015. It shows the government has not listened to New Zealanders who said loud and clear that we oppose ISDS.
Nor has it protected the New Zealand government’s right to regulate from being attacked by foreign investors and from rogue interpretations by investment arbitration tribunals, as promised.
There is no agreement on restricting capital flows in a financial crisis; the choice is between a weak exception and a meaningless one.
There are no effective exceptions for public policy areas like health, the environment or culture. Instead, the text recognises the right to regulate for those matters where the government’s action is consistent with the chapter!
Such flaws should be fatal to the deal, especially when American corporations are responsible for more disputes than investors from any other country.
We need to make sure they are fatal. The best way to send that message to the government – and Phil Goff and others who have supported similar investment rules in the past – is to make a submission to the select committee currently hearing the NZ Korea FTA opposing the investment chapter in that agreement and all others.
Go to itsourfuture.org.nz – the splash page gives you the basics and a standard from submission. Or you can read my lay person’s guide that compares the Korea Agreement and the leaked TPPA and write your own – and ask to speak to it before the committee.
Of course, that won’t change anything about the Korea deal because it’s already signed. Cabinet can ratify it irrespective of what the select committee says – not that it will say anything critical because the government controls it and apparently Korea said ‘no ISDS, no dairy’.
The second way to stop the deal is take Groser and Key at their word, awful as that may sound. Both are on record saying that New Zealand will not do a deal if Obama doesn’t have ‘fast track’ authority (the euphemism is Trade Promotion Authority or TPA) that would largely, but not completely, nobble Congress’s ability to rewrite the agreement. So have Japan, Canada, Chile and several others.
Tomorrow or Thursday a bill proposing fast track is expected to be dropped onto the floor of Congress. One that was proposed last year sunk. This one has taken months to negotiate. But Obama doesn’t have the numbers to get it passed, certainly in the House. He will be relying almost solely on Republican for votes, and won’t have enough.
Many Democrats are opposed to the TPPA because they are really angry about the secrecy, the failure of NAFTA, and mounting opposition to investor-state disputes. Other Democrats have been targeted by a massive anti-fast track campaign with Twitter storms, lots of protests and even a blimp following around the main Democrat due to co-sponsor the Bill. They are rightly worried about losing support from their core constituencies.
So why is Obama bringing the fast track bill to Congress? It’s the ‘demonstration’ effect. His team hopes this will act as a catalyst and give momentum to the talks with Japan, and that Groser and the rest of the ministers will fall for the Obama charm offensive and believe that he will get fast track in the end.
On Friday, there is a day of action in the US against Fast Track. Some are taking solidarity actions here, including delivering a letter to the US Consulate in Auckland. There will be some action directed to Groser in a week or two.
But for now the best solidarity action is to make sure you tell the government, via the select committee, ‘no foreign investor rights to sue ever again – not in the Korea FTA, the TPPA or anywhere.’