The Man Who Sold the World

By   /   January 19, 2016  /   47 Comments

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How could it be that the most comprehensive, far-sighted economic agreement the world has ever seen pose a threat to democracy? Here’s my take and I’d be interested to hear where I’m going wrong:

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This week, the world mourned the passing of one the greatest artists of our era. David Bowie, masterpiece of sound, vision, fashion and fame, turned 69, released a new album, appeared across the internet looking a million dollars in a dark suit and hat (no socks: ever stylish) and then…and then…he was dead. Major Tom. The Thin White Duke. Ziggy Stardust. Dead. 
How I wished it was a hoax. But no. It was The Guardian website I was reading, reporting confirmation from Bowie’s son. Nearly a week on, it’s still hard to comprehend. He moved through time and space with such otherworldly grace that loving him was like loving the alien. Because he seemed immortal, his mortality shocked. It wasn’t that he died young like Elvis or Lennon. It was that he…well…died at all.  Planet Earth was blue with tears and the international outpouring of grief revealed a scale of honour and respect few can inspire.
Of course, that didn’t stop them trying. Like this headline from the NZ Herald: “Editorial: TPP signing an honour, let’s respect it”.  After flat out local denials, the (Chilean) Government announced that the Trans Pacific Partnership will be signed in Auckland on 4 February. It seems we are “about to have the honour of hosting the formal signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement by trade ministers from 12 nations of the Pacific rim. And it is an honour. This is the most comprehensive and far-sighted economic agreement the world has seen in our lifetime, possibly of all time.” 
The Herald concedes “it is too much to hope any fears now assuaged will reduce the scale of protest at the signing. But it should not be too much to ask that those philosophically opposed to free trade respect the views of those who disagree with them, and let this country host the occasion with dignity and pride”.
Respect? Honour? Dignity? Pride? Remember, we’re talking about TPP not David Bowie. 
A couple of days later in the same paper, John Key’s biographer John Roughan did his best to assuage the fearsome, whose “ only remaining concern may be investors’ rights to sue for compensation in independent international tribunals if a government’s action unreasonably reduces the value of an investment. But that is not new, disputes tribunals were part of post-war international trade rules, and the principle is perfectly reasonable. It is unlikely any government New Zealanders would elect, whether led by National or Labour, would need to be taken to a tribunal. They would expect to compensate an investor for a policy change the investor could not reasonably have foreseen. I don’t know what kind of government protesters have in mind when they call the TPP’s dispute provisions a threat to “democracy”.
How could it be that the most comprehensive, far-sighted economic agreement the world has ever seen pose a threat to democracy? Here’s my take and I’d be interested to hear where I’m going wrong:
  • If you are an investor under TPP, you have new, secretly negotiated, supra-legal, far-reaching, irreversible, unappealable, unlimited RIGHTS to protect your investment from a government if it acts against your financial interests, including the right to sue for compensation for potential (not just actual) loss of earnings.
  • If you are NOT an investor under TPP, you have new, secretly negotiated, supra-legal, far-reaching, irreversible, unappealable, unlimited LIABILITIES to recompense investors if your government acts against their financial interests, including exposure to be sued for compensation for potential (not just actual) loss of earnings.
The issue then is (and this for you John Roughan), is it is a function of democracy to provide a two-track judicial system: one for investors and one for non-investors, which provides unlimited irreversible, unappealable rights for one side and unlimited irreversible, unappealable liabilities for the other?
In short, do you believe investor rights trump human rights? If you think they do, if you think this proposition is reasonable, you should support TPP. If you think they don’t, if you think this proposition is treasonable, you should oppose TPP. So far, I’m sold on the latter proposition.
And it’s not just me. On 10 January in The Guardian, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz expressed his hopes that 2016 would be a better year for trade agreements – and “the death of TPP”, which he described as the worst trade agreement in decades (let’s face it, Tim Groser was our negotiator).
According to Stiglitz, “the problem is not so much with the agreement’s trade provisions, but with the “investment” chapter, which severely constrains environmental, health, and safety regulation, and even financial regulations with significant macroeconomic impacts. In particular, the chapter gives foreign investors the right to sue governments in private international tribunals when they believe government regulations contravene the TPP’s terms (inscribed on more than 6,000 pages)”. He continues: “Obama has sought to perpetuate business as usual, whereby the rules governing global trade and investment are written by US corporations for US corporations. This should be unacceptable to anyone committed to democratic principles.”
With TPP, America sets the rules. In his final State of the Union Address this week, Obama said it himself: “With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region; we do.” Sound like a partnership to you?
Stiglitz concludes that” those seeking closer economic integration have a special responsibility to be strong advocates of global governance reforms: if authority over domestic policies is ceded to supranational bodies, then the drafting, implementation, and enforcement of the rules and regulations has to be particularly sensitive to democratic concerns. Unfortunately, that was not always the case in 2015. In 2016, we should hope for the TPP’s defeat and the beginning of a new era of trade agreements that don’t reward the powerful and punish the weak.”
So when John Roughan disingenuously ponders on what kind of government protesters have in mind when they call the TPP’s dispute provisions a threat to democracy, Stiglitz gives us the answer: the kind of government that would “reward the powerful and punish the weak”. Sound familiar?
Respect? Honour? Dignity? Pride? Not for these men who sold the world.
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47 Comments

  1. countryboy says:

    I can’t get the spectre of 62 people having 50% of the worlds wealth to fuck around with out of my head.

    Clearly, you can trust them to do the right thing by us.

    Oxfam.
    http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/18/richest-62-billionaires-wealthy-half-world-population-combined

    Ordinary people who support the TPP are ignorant fools. Rich people who support the TPP are crooks. Those who don’t care are doomed to suffer the tyranny of both parties.

  2. Gosman says:

    If the agreement is so very terrible Mr Prast then we are free to elect a new government and then leave the agreement. How is this not consistent with democracy?

    • Sam Sam says:

      Because TPP creates extraterritoriality.

      And you spin a lot of dribble

      • Gosman says:

        Every international agreement creates extraterritoriality. That is the point of them. The recent climate treaty negotiated in Paris creates multiple areas of extraterritoriality. Of course I suspect you are fine with that so extraterritoriality is not really the problem is it.

      • Gosman says:

        All international agreements create extraterritoriality. That is the point of them.

        • Sam Sam says:

          Bruh. Being exempted from local laws is not democracy

        • ALH84001 says:

          “All international agreements create extraterritoriality. That is the point of them. ” – Gosman

          So where does democratic over-sight come into it, Gosman? Especially when National will be signing the TPPA BEFORE any public input through select committees.

          I think you’re dribbling shit and your fly-by comments have very little credible meaning in this debate.

      • CLEANGREEN says:

        Well said Sam. Groomsmen is a paid to dribble.

    • elle says:

      Once again Gosman you don’t know what you are talking about,the joining of the TPPA is not a club you can leave,its set in concrete so no government can leave,the tppa is instigated by the corporations for the corporations,and very little in it for smaller countries like NZ.
      The corporations can get governments to change laws to suit,and your precious Key will be happy to do that.

      • Gosman says:

        Ummm… sorry but the agreement is quite explicit on how you leave and penalties for doing so. Perhaps you should read the text rather than relying on the opinions of others.

        • Sam Sam says:

          @Goose

          It makes it easier to boil down into a multiple choice question. When was the idea of sovereignty put forward?

          A) In the Treaty of Westphalia
          B) The Treaty of Paris
          C) It’s historically complicated
          D) Some guy on the internet told me you were full of shit
          E) All of the above
           

        • JonL says:

          So, you have read ALL the text, where no one else has had the opportunity?

    • tom says:

      Gosman you a prick 1st class……. you know the story as well as most on this blog………. you and your kind have been peddling this B/S for years quietly sucking life blood from this nation.
      One thing you Neo Lib merchants of swindle are is not dumb. You know full well the white anting of Labour and getting the media in your pocket not to mention the import of 1.4 mil money hungry people coming to NZ to ‘better themselves’ has the tables tipped in your favor. But maybe you have noticed people are beginning to wake from there relaxed slumber and are not happy. Maybe its time to cash up and move on…….. like the sap sucking low life pest you are.

    • David Russell says:

      The agreement is binding on future governments, destroying our democracy in it’s tracks.
      To withdraw from TPP is to withdraw from trading with 11 nations, most formerly good trading partners, because the agreement is binding once ratified.
      No changes can be made to the existing document, and it is only yes or no, once.
      Then we wait 4 years to see the bits of the negotiation they are willing to share.
      ISDS is slightly watered down, with tobacco having disgraced itself. Oil, coal, Monsanto, Bayer, all the worlds leading employers of low cost labour with all it’s associated problems, Malaya was forgiven ongoing human rights abuses, the list is long and ugly, as are the court cases currently pending before an owned tribunal.

    • Wensleydale says:

      That’s the spirit, Gosman! Let’s have another election! An election filled to overflowing with duplicity, lies, vicious smears, shady back-room deals and general perfidy. A bit like the last one. That’ll solve all our problems.

      In other news, you’re a muppet.

    • Edwin Scott says:

      What rubbish, if this scam is signed, it is signed for all time! All govt’s to follow. NZ parliament become a figurehead of the corporations, who alone can alter the script of the TPP. So key is just signing quicksilver. Good luck.

      • Gosman says:

        I take it you haven’t read the final text then. It is quite clear on what a natio n has to do if they wish to leave the agreement.

        • Budman16 says:

          Why dont ypou tell us what a nation has to do then, instead of rabbitting on about it, correct the mistake someone has made, otherwise, you are nothing more than a moron with a high opinion of himself Gosman…. it appears to me, that we gain little, and lose an awful lot, by signing this agreement… the largest gains according to the experts, are for dairy, and they are just 1/4 of the extra costs of medication…. doesn’t sound like a good deal for us… if I am wrong, correct me or shut up…. you look like a fool with your parroting of the government spin.

        • ALH84001 says:

          Really, Gosman? So why don’t you share it with us then? What’s the big secret?

          If you’re so knowledgeable, enlighten us. Prove us wrong.

          I fucken challenge you to put the facts before us, complete with fully linked references.

          But you won’t. Because you can’t.

          Dickhead.

    • “If the agreement is so very terrible Mr Prast then we are free to elect a new government and then leave the agreement. How is this not consistent with democracy?”

      And you and ACT would support such a move, without criticism, or opposition, Gosman?

    • 9 to 5 Joe says:

      A lot of TPP supporters keep saying that, “If it’s no good, then we can vote them out.” But we’ll be rid of the govt that signed it in and STILL be stuck with the contract that erodes our rights. No politician will simply say that we are protected and will not be sued by BIG money corporations. Most likely because (1) they are voting the party-line like sheep (esp List MPs) or (2) because they don’t know what they’re signing because they’re not in the ‘inner circle’ & therefore vote party line or (3) they don’t care, so vote the party line. All they need to do is say out right “OUR LAWS will protect us, above the rights of CORPORATIONS to make a PROFIT. And their litigation is not possible against our sovereign laws (isn’t that what the WTO is for? fair trade?).”

      i’m sure the penalties of leaving the deal are designed to hurt those who wise up to the fact that corporations now can litigate (in whose court?) and freeze their democracy / productivity. Then both National & Labour will pull the old ‘sorry, we are stuck with it. It is too hard to get out of.’ Labour will blame National. National will claim ‘it is part of being in an trade agreement, you won’t always get your way.’

      If you pass the TPP then mostly likely we wave bye-bye to ‘Plain Packaging Laws’ – that will infringe on tobacco companies ability to earn a profit from their health damaging product.

      Trade deals are ok if each nation gets more positive results for their economy than negative. TPP goes beyond simple economics, it does not protect our rights as a nation.

  3. Steve Rowe says:

    Exactly Mr Prast, well said. Nobody seems to be talking about how the TPP would affect policies to reduce climate change, surely there is a conflict there? Climate, of course, will lose out and perhaps the TPP is merely a delaying tactic – they must know the game is up on climate (I don’t believe they are stupid – just sociopathic).

    As evidenced by the US Congress voting away water protections after the Flint, Michigan, debacle. If they do this before the TPP – imagine after…

    “The US House of Representatives voted 253-166 this week to overturn a controversial rule to protect America’s clean water in spite of a growing scandal in Flint, Michigan over poisonous levels of lead.

    “Representatives approved a resolution back by the Senate in November that blocks the Environmental Protection Agency’s “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule.”

    The regulation protects streams and wetlands used in local water supplies, but failed after a deluge of lobbying from corporations including Halliburton, Shell, and Tyson foods.”

    Full story – https://www.rt.com/usa/329117-congress-clean-water-flint/

    • elle says:

      Lobbyists are the scum of the earth,spending all their time trying to and succeeding in influencing governments for corporations,time they were all banned.

  4. paul mackay says:

    Impossible. Like the US New Zealand elections are rigged.

  5. Mr. Far Noon says:

    A neat piece, and very digestible! I like your comparisons, “Do you believe investor rights trump human rights?”. Human rights all day.

  6. e-clectic says:

    And the ultimate sad, sad, sad part of it all is that the benefits amount to an addition of $2.7bn to GDP by 2030 (MFAT website). That’s such a pathetic “benefit”. As a measure of scale, Aussie banks take more than that annually in profits in NZ.

    • Jack Ramaka says:

      Shame we didn’t keep the BNZ, sold it for a pittance and guaranteed the debts?

    • David Russell says:

      It’s only $.7 Bill less than the Nats gave back to the wealthy per annum.
      Take in the drop in value at the farm gate, and the increase in large dairy operations in Europe, Asia and the Americas, this is not going to work out the way the faulty econometric model working with biased guesstimates predicted.
      This agreement steared clear of unfair tax regimes, tax evasion and climate change.
      This makes a farce of the commitment to fight all 3.
      Lets not sign, and negotiate a FTA that does not sell us out.

  7. Simon Prast Simon Prast says:

    Excellent analysis from a Canadian perspective: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2016/01/18/TPP-Foreign-Investors/

  8. Brendon Harre says:

    I don’t understand how the Executive can give away Parliament’s sovereignty by making a foreign body -Investor State Dispute Tribunals be able to veto Parliamentary Supremacy, without Parliament been able to debate and agree to this change. I would have thought that such a massive constitutional change as the loss of Parliament Supremacy would require a referendum.

    I wonder about the constitutional legality of what is happening.

    What is stopping a future Parliament from declaring that in New Zealand Parliament has always been the supreme arbiter of the public good and that trade agreements cannot change this constitutional fact. In particular that ISDS decisions are just recommendations which Parliament will decide whether to uphold or not.

    Why should our most representative institution -our Parliament that is the most democratic, that has evolved through progressive changes dating back centuries be secondary to some new less representative foreign court?

    For those of you who question whether we have a constitution, the answer is yes we do, it is simple and it is unwritten -being a collection of rights handed down from the British 1688 -‘Glorious Revolution’ -which gave supreme sovereignty to Parliament not the monarchy.

    What is being proposed by Key et al is that this constitution be amended, so an unelected, unrepresentative, foreign court with a mandate to only consider one sector of society -foreign investors, will have sovereignty over our Parliament.

    I question if Key et al has the authority to make this change.

    • elle says:

      How dare John Key defy the electorate, who does he think he is!!!
      He imports people from overseas and gives them special treatment to vote for his rotten schemes. We get house prices out of reach for any but the investors,then they vote to let him hand us over to corporations.
      Key is a disgrace and not a kiwi ,How dare he wreck NZ for his own ends.

    • elle says:

      What makes it so bad Brendan is that National MPs are allowing this traitorous swindle go through, shame on them.Next and future elections remember every one of them and let them lose their cushy rubberstamp jobs.Maybe they have all been bribed and they don’t care.

      • e-clectic says:

        Not forgetting that at the last election National/Act/Maori/UF polled less than 50% of the total party vote.
        They don’t have a mandate.
        Quirks of MMP have inflated their representation in the House.

    • e-clectic says:

      He has a very questionable mandate.
      The Nat/Act/Maori/UF cabal secured less than 50% of the party vote at the last election.
      It was a quirk of MMP that translated that into the majority they have in the House.

    • elle says:

      He dosnt have the authority Brendon but he has the corporations onside. Key knows we wont gain anything but lose a lot ,he dosnt care ,he wants his good stamp for doing as he is told!He will exit nz when it suits him ,the deal wont affect him in Hawaii.

  9. Helena says:

    Here’s one viewpoint from the U.S. – as bleak as ours:
    http://freedom-articles.toolsforfreedom.com/how-tpp-will-afct-you/
    While I am not looking forward to the stock market (casino) crash, I do wonder if this disaster now happening in the U.S. will bring the U.S corporate TPPA instigators to their knees.

  10. esoteric pineapples says:

    I’ve been saying for some time how apt The Man Who Sold The World is for John Key. It’s such a neat and appropriate descriptive phrase for him. He’s selling something he doesn’t even own (the world) to a bunch of duped New Zealanders.

  11. Helena says:

    Got good new today!!! NESARA has begun. To give everyone an idea of what it means: No IRS; no income tax; revamp of the Judicial system; governance which reflects the wishes of the people, etc., etc.:
    http://www.ashtarontheroad.com/history-of-nesara.html
    U.S. comes first with NESARA and we follow about a week later with GESARA. Hmm …. I wonder how John Key and his corporate cronies are feeling right now (or is he really one of the good guys?) We all remember he went off to the Bilderberg and made a comment about us paying the price for being a member of “The Club”. Well he may well be a member of the club, but patriotic New Zealanders are not.
    The markets are being taken down worldwide to quit the world of the Khazarian Mafia( The Club) who has kept us all down for hundreds (actually thousands) of years :
    http://investigate911.org/Oligarchy.htm
    There’s gonna be dancing in the streets very soon!!

  12. Ahmed Asgher says:

    Thank you Simon for telling it the way it is. Sadly politicians serve business elite more the their own countries. Something is wrong with democracy?

  13. Robert says:

    All governments act unwisely and are possibly like all sporting events which have paid professionals playing, collecting arranged payouts fir scammed results, seems all the worlds on its way to hell
    Scandal beggats scandal that beggats the coming judgement not one person will be able to avoid.

  14. Jack Ramaka says:

    This TPPA legitimizes Corporate criminal activity which there has been alot of world wide for centuries.

    How can we let National sign away our sovereignty, National showing their true colours.


 
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