EXCLUSIVE: Jane Kelsey – Why you must rally against the TPPA this Saturday



You would have to be blind, deaf and very stupid not to recognise that the economic model on which the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), and all the other acronyms that peddle the same toxic recipe, is in deep crisis around the world. Rallies for Democracy that will be held around this country on Saturday 10th September, which link the TPPA to climate action, te Tiriti o Waitangi, social justice and workers’ rights, are the latest manifestation of that disquiet.

An optimist might hope, against all the odds, that the National government has seen the writing on the wall in neon signs and accepts the need for a first principles rethink of New Zealand’s trade policy. Instead, they have embarked on what is euphemistically called a ‘refresh’ of their tired old model. This includes another charm offensive from new trade minister Todd McClay, whose has just hosted a webcast show-and-tell in Wellington and Auckland with the deputy secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade and chief TPPA negotiator David Walker. Apparently they have been talking to business for some time.

The new strategy centres on four action points, which are all about ways to consolidate and extend the neoliberal deregulatory agenda for the future. It is largely irrelevant anyway, as the refreshed strategy is not intended to affect any existing negotiations, by which time they will have signed away our future anyway.

Despite a promise to listen, all we got in return at the Auckland meeting were the same old clichés about New Zealand as an island nation depends on trade (which no one disputes) and reassurances that governments would never give away the right to regulate for legitimate public policy purposes.

National, MFAT and the business lobbies seems to be gambling that the backlash against globalised capitalism is a short-lived blip in a linear process of ever-more extensive agreements. As newly elevated Green MP Barry Coates and I warned at the meeting, failure to recognise and address the deep concerns that motivated an unprecedented resistance to the TPPA will only deepen the crisis of legitimacy facing these kinds of deals.

Popular and political rejection of the TPPA in the US, acknowledgement by the French and German ministers that the UE-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a dead duck, the majority vote for Brexit in the UK are all evidence of a systemic crisis in the model.

Poorer countries are also walking away from ‘free trade’ agreements that will cripple them and deepen their subservience to major powers. Tanzania and Nigeria have just backed out of mega agreements with the EU. Closer to home, Papua New Guinea has said it won’t join the self-serving anti-development treaty between Australia and New Zealand and the Pacific Island Countries known as PACER-plus. Vanuatu’s government is consulting on whether to follow suit.

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The UNCTAD talks of a crisis of legitimacy in the investment arbitration system. Significant countries like South Africa, India and Indonesia have been withdrawing from the bilateral investment treaties that provide charters of corporate rights and a booming business for a ‘mafia’ of international arbitration lawyers-qua-arbitrators, similar to the investment chapter in the TPPA and proposed for the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Those countries are developing various more balanced alternatives, either through new model treaties or requiring cases to be heard in national courts, as we can and should do.

But states that act as proxies for corporate power are not about to surrender. TPPA-watchers in the US warn that Team Obama is playing down the prospects of the deal passing Congress during the lame duck period between presidential administrations, so that the opposition eases off. They expect a full-on campaign by Obama to get enough votes in the House and the Senate as soon as the election is over. The prospect that the TPPA might fail has some countries, including New Zealand scrambling to inject as much as they can into the China-led RCEP.

There is still a lot of water to flow under the Brexit bridge, with a legal challenge pending and a drawn out process that seems intended to minimise the extent of real change. A bilateral free trade agreement with the UK would be as bad, in a country still dominated by bureaucrats and politicians who are committed to the legacy of Thatcher and Blair and an economic captive to the City of London.

While TTIP has been written off in Europe, the equally toxic Canada-EU Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) is being pushed aggressively by the European Commission, which wants to bring it into force on an interim basis before the parliaments of member states get a chance to vote on it, if they do at all. With so many US companies established in Canada, CETA becomes a de facto TTIP.

When I was in Nairobi recently for the UNCTAD’s World Investment Forum it became clear that Canada and the EU were leading a concerted counter-strategy to pre-empt the collapse of the international investment regime. The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) being negotiated under secrecy in Geneva has become the fall back option for many of the worst elements of TPPA and TTIP.

Back in Aotearoa, the Key government remains in a state of denial. Labour it still sitting on the fence. If the pro-TPPA Shane Jones stands for New Zealand First their staunch opposition may also change. Hopefully Barry Coates joining the Greens in Parliament will sharpen their resistance to these deals and promotion of alternatives.

The time has come to develop a clear and considered alternative trade policy strategy. A number of us from various organisations will be working on that over the next few months with a view to asking political parties to commit to it as they lead into election year.  I fear, however, that nothing will really change until there is a root and branch cleanout of MFAT, who are desperate to conclude the web of binding and enforceable agreements that will lock in their agenda for decades to come. Given the power that MFAT now wields in the central policy making machine that is probably the most pressing, and problematic challenge in turning this Titanic around.
Meanwhile, see you all at the Rally for Democracy on Saturday  

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  1. Yes Jane the Corporates are pushing every button to get any deal to screw us all while they can.

    Corporates don’t have any integrity at all to deal fairly of this and work with the people so they deserve to be defeated as they are trying to get their dirty deal any way they can.

    We can never trust them they are crooks.

  2. ‘Despite a promise to listen, all we got in return at the Auckland meeting were the same old clichés…’

    Those in power are only capable of delivering clichés and platitudes, and are in a state of permanent denial of reality, continuing a four-decade-long tradition of denial of reality and misrepresentation (lying).

    The entire industrialised-monetised-militarised-globalised system is now in the crisis that was predicted four decades ago, and the crisis will deepen as the ‘headwinds’ of declining energy availability, declining resource availability and a collapsing biosphere get stronger and stronger.

    Present economic-political arrangements are expected to collapse some time between 2016 and 2030, depending on the degree of desperation of governments to prop up failing systems and the speed at which rapid overheating of the Earth destroys infrastructure and food systems.


    • Those in power are only capable of delivering clichés and platitudes, and are in a state of permanent denial of reality, continuing a four-decade-long tradition of denial of reality and misrepresentation (lying).

      It’s a little longer than four decades. Try throughout recorded history which is about 5000 years. Those in power always champion a top-down hierarchy and it never works.

      • True that throughout history people at the top of the hierarchy have lied to acquire power and hold on to it.

        I was thinking more in terms of the fact that ALL the systems of government have been founded on lies and misrepresentations for about four decades.

        Prior to 1971 the monetary system was backed by physical gold to some extent. Nixon’s ‘closure of the gold window’ for redemption of UD dollars set the world on the path to unsustainable money-printing completely detached from any physical resource.

        Prior to 1971 energy systems consisted of extracting oil and coal with no regard for the future. In 1971 M.K Hubbert’s Peak Oil theory was validated, and in 1976 the collapse of industrial societies we are now witnessing the first sings of was forecast. Energy systems still consist of extracting oil and coal with no absolutely no regard for the future.

        It was in the 1970s that the effect of excess CO2 emissions were confirmed and the dire consequences of continued mass-scale burning of fossil fuels were fully understood. Politicians still promote the mass-scale burning of fossil fuels.

        It was in the 1970s that the defective and dysfunctional nature of GDP was characterised. Politicians still promote GDP as a measure of success.

        We have reached the point at which everything politicians do and promote is clearly seen to be entirely the wrong thing. But they go ahead and do it anyway.

        So we are now witnessing the complete destruction of society and the near-complete destruction of the only habitable planet we know of on the basis of blatant lies.

  3. Noam Chomsky in his latest book Who Rules the World?, describes the Trans-Pacific Partnership as “one of the investor-rights agreements mislabeled ‘free-trade agreements’ in propaganda and commentary. They are negotiated in secret, apart from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists writing the crucial details. “

    • Noam Chomsky is a LEFT GATEKEEPER like Amy Goodman and others.
      Anyone know what that means ? Check it out. I used to be a fan of Chomsky but no more – no matter what he affirms and I agree with much of it. But when looking deeper, it is clear why he is labeled a left gatekeeper.
      Google it and find out more.

  4. I’m more interested in the current open colonisation of our “country” by the Chinese dictatorship. “You say cut back, we say fight back!” Tired. Ineffective. What is required is organised armed violence
    (i.e. fighting back). Sticks and stones…

  5. Applies for us with the TPPA.

    Here They Come Again

    Corporate lobbyists and their captive governments try to wear down our resistance with one fake trade treaty after another.

    By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 7th September 2016

    Is it over? Can it be true? If so, it’s a victory for a campaign that once looked hopeless, pitched against a fortress of political, corporate and bureaucratic power.

    TTIP – the transatlantic trade and investment partnership – appears to be dead. The German economy minister, Sigmar Gabriel, says that “the talks with the US have de facto failed.” The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has announced “a clear halt”. Belgian and Austrian ministers have said the same thing. People power wins. For now.


    Corporate lobbyists and their captive governments have been seeking to impose such treaties for over 20 years, starting with the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (it was destroyed, like TTIP, by massive public protests, in 1998). Working in secrecy, without democratic consent, they will keep returning to the theme, in the hope of wearing down our resistance.

    When you are told that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, this is what it means. This struggle will continue throughout your life. We have to succeed every time, they have to succeed only once. Never drop your guard. Never let them win.

  6. Let me explain to you how this works: you see, the corporations finance TPPPPP……. and the corporations sit there in their… in their corporation buildings, and… and, and see, they’re all corporation-y… and they make money.

    Kelsey is getting more loony the older she becomes. Donald Trump and Uncle Nigel dont prove nothing. You get 200 BA studnets from rent a crowd to your rallies , mostly called Nigel and Jane, who cant count to ten, far less spell Milton Friedman. Meanwhile free trade lifts a billion people out of poverty in China and India. Say no to racist protectionists. Say yes to freedom.

    • TPPA is about taking away ! ! ! freedoms and JOBS and giving more power to your insidious greedy corporations and criminal economic terrorist bankers.
      You do not need to explain anything to anyone because clearly you are out of touch. PROFIT BEFORE PEOPLE – HEY ? –
      No rent a crowds – just folks who want to protect our rights and our freedoms and our sovereignty from your money loving unethical buddies.
      These trade agreements like Nafta etc. have devastated people and environments and jobs. Good ethical trade is important but
      these trade agreements are not about open and smart trade but about corporations taking and taking and leaving countries much worse off.

      How free will NZ be when these criminal and greedy corporations sue us for their lost profits ? See the real reality and get off your righteous pedestal.
      TPPA is like Nafta on steroids and that has been proven to be horrific and detrimental to all but these greedy and criminal corporations and bankers.

    • Sorry, Dave. We didn’t know you prioritised shopping malls and traffic-flows as higher-value than our democratic right to protest.

      Would you like to be the one to explain to millions of Black South Africans how you value your right to watch rugby over their right to vote?

      You’d be the first to squeal like a pig if a left-wing government infringed on your (sense-of-entitlement) “rights”. Mind you, if that ever happened, guess who would be protesting on your behalf? Not fucking Steven Joyce, that’s for damn sure.

      • The question you ask is fair Frank, but the fact that so many stupid people infringe on the rights of others to move about freely really turns me off having anything to do with them or their cause.

  7. I resubmitted my comment about TPPA and Jane and the UN and again it was denied publication. We ask why and get no response.
    Maybe democracy ; honesty and freedom of speech are a bit limited here.

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