2016 – the year we beat TPPA and neoliberal globalism

By   /   December 15, 2016  /   20 Comments

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The failure of the TPPA was just one of many signs that this limb of the neoliberal paradigm is in crisis. 2016 saw the paralysis of the US-EU negotiation known as TTIP, well before Trump’s election. The Belgian regional parliament of Wallonia vetoed the ratification of the lesser-known Canada-EU deal (CETA), setting conditions for their approval, leading European activists to embrace the slogan: ‘we are all Wallonians’.


As we reflect on a tumultuous year in the realm of global corporate treaties, we can allow ourselves a brief moment to celebrate the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) in its present form. Looking back on the 6-year campaign our overseas allies pay tribute to the leading role we played in Aotearoa. Our combined action across most of the 12 countries ultimately defeated the deal. We need to remind those who attribute this to Trump that it was progressive activists working with Bernie Sanders who put the TPPA at the centre of the US presidential election campaign, forcing Clinton and Trump to follow suit.

The failure of the TPPA was just one of many signs that this limb of the neoliberal paradigm is in crisis. 2016 saw the paralysis of the US-EU negotiation known as TTIP, well before Trump’s election. The Belgian regional parliament of Wallonia vetoed the ratification of the lesser-known Canada-EU deal (CETA), setting conditions for their approval, leading European activists to embrace the slogan: ‘we are all Wallonians’.

By then Brexit had thrown the spanner in the works. No one (in their right mind) wants to finalise an agreement with the EU without knowing the status of the United Kingdom, which is the largest market for many parts of those deals.

In our part of the world, Papua New Guinea said it wasn’t interested in the PACER-Plus deal driven by Australia and New Zealand since negotiations began in 2009. Fiji remains lukewarm.

These dramatic about turns at the negotiating table are mirrored among key intellectuals. as The weight of opinion among leading international economists has turned sour.  Long-time critic Joseph Stiglitz has been a joined by many other luminaries who were once supportive, and even cheerleaders, for free trade deals.

Last month Harvard economics professor Dani Rodrik said: ‘Instead of decrying people’s stupidity and ignorance in rejecting trade deals, we should try to understand why such deals lost legitimacy in the first place. I’d put a large part of the blame on mainstream elites and trade technocrats who pooh-poohed ordinary people’s concerns with earlier trade agreements’. He challenged the mis-branding of ‘free trade agreements’ saying ‘Adam Smith and Ricardo would roll over in their graves if they read, say, any of the TPP chapters’.

Former neoliberal evangelist Jeffrey Sachs came out against both the TPPA and TTIP because ‘they are more than trade agreements’ and ‘would give too much power to large multinational companies, the corporations whose lobbyists have helped draft the agreements’.

Even Larry Summers, Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton’s and champion of NAFTA, described the ‘revolt against global economic integration underway in the West’ as ‘not wholly unwarranted’. This month in the New York Times Summers called for the redirection of global economic dialogue ‘to the promotion of “responsible nationalism” rather than on international integration for its own sake’.

Whatever one thinks of these guys, they provide a litmus test for the neoliberal orthodoxy of these agreement. Their radical repositioning can’t be ignored. Yet many political leaders and corporate lobbyists are doing so, as they seek to rescue the TPPA or to decant the old wine into new bottles.

The TPPA, as it stands, may be dead in the water. The bad news is that TPPA is already morphing into different forms. It has already created a new ‘norm’ where even countries that vehemently opposed various chapters in the TPPA are promoting the same texts in other negotiations. I am seeing that in the two remaining mega-regionals under negotiations: the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) in Geneva and the China and ASEAN-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations just held in Jakarta. The latter is moving slowly, in part because of the extreme demands from Australia and New Zealand. TiSA is much more dangerous – think of it as the ‘Uberisation of the global economy’. However, a proposed ministerial meeting to close the deal scheduled for early December was postponed because of some fundamental disagreements between the US and EU.

Looking into next year, we cannot assume the TPPA won’t be resurrected in some form. Trump is a billionaire. He is surrounding himself with corporate leaders from Wall St, the Oil industry, Hollywood, as well as the military. He opposes the TPPA because America did not get enough – not, as Bernie Sanders said, because the neoliberal model is deeply flawed. Future Trump deals will be skewed even more to enhancing the power of the corporate elites. This will be the ultimate test for declining US hegemony. Will the other governments surrender to his demands because they are desperate for an economy/foreign policy deal? Messaging from Japan suggests Japan’s Prime Minister Abe will lead the way.

What are the chances that our politicians may wake up and smell the roses? Certainly not National.  Speaking to the Policy Exchange in London last month Trade Minister Todd McClay acknowledged ‘the erosion of support for the benefits of trade liberalisation’. His solution: ‘ we must talk about it to ensure the benefits of free trade are better understood’.

McClay’s complacency is staggering: ‘At the signing of TPP 10,000 people marched in protest. Not all of them knew why they were there. That doesn’t sound like many, but proportionally that was 135, 000 on the streets of Britain or 1.6 million on the streets of the EU. When the final readings of the TPP bill took place only 20 protesters turned up. In part that is because we had engaged more widely than on any trade agreement before. We talked, explained, fronted up. … As a Minister, my answer is to keep talking about the issues – people need to be informed; people need to feel that they have been heard, that we take their views seriously and take them into account.’

Despite the fact he has manifestly failed to do so. (Excuse me if I don’t revisit the democratic deficit in the parliamentary process for the TPPA) …

McClay’s main initiative, branded as a ‘trade policy refresh’, is a vanity project to allow the incoming minister to distance himself from the damage wrought by Tim Groser, his abrasive and unpopular predecessor. After long delays, the reply to my Official Information Act request did not include a single policy paper to the Minister, let alone Cabinet, proposing the review. Consultations with business had been quietly occurring for several months before the ‘refresh’ was announced publicly with promises of ‘public consultation’.  

The documents suggest they finally recognised that notching up more ‘free trade’ deals wouldn’t actually provide an economic bonanza if the exporters didn’t have the capacity to use them. All the other critiques were ignored.

Labour is breathing a sigh of relief that the TPPA looks like dying without them having to do anything decisive, and remains committed not to scaring the horses in election year. The Greens are stronger with Barry Coates having taken over the trade portfolio. New Zealand First remains staunch, but that may change if the pro-TPPA Shane Jones joins their ranks next year. The Maori Party and Mana together would provide an effective and authentic voice for Maori concerns.

What then do we do next year? This is a long game. We have fought and won battles before – the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), the expansion of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in the World Trade Organisation, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Every time updated versions of the same proposals resurfaced in new forums. There is a fatal tension as obsessive levels of secrecy fuel the crisis of legitimacy.  

We need to build on 2016 and do what our allies in the US did – force this policy onto the electoral agenda alongside the other life and death questions of poverty, homelessness, safe work and climate change.

On 3rd February next year – the anniversary of the mass mobilisation against the signing of the TPPA in Auckland – we will be launching the New Zealand campaign to stop TiSA. So have a great break. We have a lot to do next year.

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  1. CLEANGREEN says:

    Without the brave heart’s such as the likes of you, the world would be such a poorer place.

    So we now need to move on this toxic Government still as it has the old guard of SS Joyce Collins and others to be dealt to as we did with Key.

    Joyce still runs the most influential agency MBIE with buckets of taxpayer money and propagandist’s to spread their vile messages out to all local councils and media so we need to begin an attack on him and his vile agency first we believe and move along the beltway and shut down their nerve centre for good so the truth will come out and the voters will hear our messages’ again.

    Meanwhile to you Jane and your nearest & dearest we extend a warm wish for a happy Xmas and a successful year ahead for us all.

  2. Priss says:

    “Looking into next year, we cannot assume the TPPA won’t be resurrected in some form. Trump is a billionaire. He is surrounding himself with corporate leaders from Wall St, the Oil industry, Hollywood, as well as the military. He opposes the TPPA because America did not get enough – not, as Bernie Sanders said, because the neoliberal model is deeply flawed. Future Trump deals will be skewed even more to enhancing the power of the corporate elites. This will be the ultimate test for declining US hegemony. Will the other governments surrender to his demands because they are desperate for an economy/foreign policy deal? Messaging from Japan suggests Japan’s Prime Minister Abe will lead the way. ”

    I’ve been noticing that as well. Trump’s latest appointment, ExxonMobil’s Rex Tillerson is another sign that it is business-as-usual in the White House. The so-called “anti-establishment”, bloated billionaire, President, Trump, is stacking his cabinet with Republicans, hard right, and corporate execs.

    Hopefully people will begin to wake up that Trump is no anti-establishment, he has simply re-branded the Establishment.

    The working class who voted for him and cheered for him will about now begin to be regretting their naivete.

    As for trade deals, expect Trump and his clique of One Percenters to be conning the people with new deals. Call it TPP 2.0

  3. Helena says:

    Thank you Jane. Wishing you a restful and happy Xmas.

  4. Words says:

    Thank you so much Jane, you are a driving force that we just couldn’t do without You have a good break too, see you again next year when we pick up the fight again.

  5. Castro says:

    Yep. Done and dusted. Now can we turn our attention back to ripping up the Free Slave Agreement with the world’s largest dictatorship? Or are you quite keen on it?

  6. John W says:

    Jane you have done the homework. alerted the public and largely have been left to lead the charge.

    There are others joining in but few providing leadership.

    It is a grave concern that Kiwis generally are so complacent and disbelieving that their politicians are bought off by corporate power.

    We really need to guard our future much more jealously and add the power of numbers to support the essential work and platform that people like you have so selfishly developed.

    Our academics and scientists are being sidelined by a viscous restriction on their freedom to exchange information.

    Mike joy is another NZ hero who could face the axe at any time.

    The more public support given to whistle blowers the harder it is to sideline them.

  7. Blake says:

    WHERE IS MY COMMENT – Martyn ?

    Please explain – yet again – why you dislike what I have shared.

    Is this not biased journalism seen again here ?

    There is absolutely no reason for you to delete that comment except for your own personal rigidity. Maybe it was you how chose to glorify Noam Chomsky with the photo and not Jane ?
    If so, shame on you and it just shows your lack of awareness and education.


  8. Cassie says:

    But Prof Kelsey,
    We HAVE NOT beaten Neoliberal Globalism.
    Neoliberal Globalism isn”t ONLY about TPPA !!!
    Mass immigration is one symptom that you seem to ignore.
    New Zealand has been undergoing “multiculturalism” for many years now..
    =flooding NZ with alien immigration to destroy our existing Kiwi culture, drive wages down, and take jobs from NZers & change the fabric of society.
    “Multiculturalism” is part of the GLOBALIST agenda..WHAT ABOUT THAT???!
    What about the HOUSING CRISIS that has resulted from letting foreigners buy up NZ properties??? Seems that all of NZ is up for sale.
    I could go on..

  9. Blake says:

    Thanks Jane for your efforts at making sure these corporate dominated trade deals are a thing of the past.
    Many of us activists are doing our part in writing emails to politicians and passing out info and keeping the topic alive.
    We need good; fair and ethical trade and not their corporate take over of our international trading to mostly serve their needs and greedy desires.

    I feel that there needs to be more focus on who is behind the scenes orchestrating and dominating and
    ( rewriting trade laws ) and controlling world affairs. Why did Jonky Donky leave so suddenly ? – we will find out and it will expose his ugly legacy even deeper.
    Make no mistake, he is connected with the upper 1 % and he was allegedly their puppet and did just what he was told — like Obama; Tony Blair; Cameron; the Bush’s etc.
    They are the same lot that control most govts. and own the MSM and most banks and changing laws to benefit them. Profits before People.



    Regarding Noam Chomsky, I am not sure if you put up his picture or Martyn did but I remain committed in exposing this unethical ; silver tongued LEFT GATEKEEPER.
    Of course much of what he states and affirms is on the money but there are some very important hidden agendas that he denies and refuses to focus on. WHY ?
    Most are unaware of the truths behind why he and Amy Goodman etc. want to keep the secrets of who is behind and who orchestrated 9 / 11 from coming to the light of day.

    That planned demolition event intentionally and negatively impacted the world in horrific ways but it made millions for some and changed laws to defend
    continued M.E. invasion and take away our rights and horrifically impacted worldwide sovereignty etc.
    Sept. 11 is when the ( intentional and planned ) fear frenzy over terrorism really began and it is no mistake that it was the beginning of
    more wars and arms sales; Israeli madness and much more.
    This relates to trade deals and corporate control and changing laws to benefit the few.
    Facts are facts, do more in depth research to learn hidden truths.
    Most are unaware of the real facts of the above two topics and believe the medias or internet’s take on it all.
    Lets look beyond the neo-liberalism paradigm and dig deeper.




  10. Blake says:

    If not, why not ? ? ?
    Where is my comment – Martyn ? ? ?

  11. Hi folks, Blake and Martyn,

    I agree generally with Jane’s observations about the public push back against globalist neoliberalism as expressed in TPP and the ugly sister trade and investment treaties. I prefer not to refer to them as ‘free trade agreements’.

    I also note the bullshit that is flowing from the mainstream media and a lot troubled folks about the “explosion of fake news” on social media. The allegation that false news reports enabled the Trump victory is an unproven factor that ignores the truth that the working classes are in desperate shape after 30-40 years of neoliberalism, and desperately cleaved to Trump, Brexit and smashing TPP and TTIP to express their desire for change.

    The reality in the US is that, if the Democrats had followed reasonable democratic process, the presidential race would have been Bernie vs Trump, which would have resulted in a Democrat win. The Clinton corruption is well placed in history, may it never return!

    The issue for NZ is how to advance positive governance that benefits all 4.5 million of us.

    The points made by Blake about left gatekeepers on critical and deep issues is well made. It is undeniable that the US administration and key members of the Neocon faction were involved in the 9/11 criminal strike on US assets on 11 September 2001, first alleged plane or explosion on WTC North Tower at 12:46am September 12 New Zealand time.

    The reason none of Noam Chomsky, a discriminating commentator outside his field of linguistics, John Pilger, George Monbiot, Chris Hedges and other respected (left or critical) journalists will not countenance 9/11 as an inside job is for them to justify in their our conscience. For me, I expect they know that the 9/11 Commission report of 2004 is bogus – so why they lie???

    One speculation is that they will never get air time and be labelled with the general and derogatory ‘conspiracy theorist’ tag-line. Thus smearing every of their future utterances in the MSM. Alternatively they are sacked as Nafeez Ahmed was from his UK ‘The Guardian’ news Earth Insight blog in 2014 for revealing too much of the Zionist Israeli agenda to steal Palestinian resource rights. Media Lens a UK media critic lays it out (Become a subscriber to their reports on UK press, they do a particularly good job on the BBC and The Guardian):


    Extract from the Media Lens article on Nafeez:

    “In July, regular Guardian contributor Nafeez Ahmed examined claims that Israel is seeking to create a ‘political climate’ conducive to the exploitation of Gaza’s considerable offshore gas reserves – 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, valued at $4 billion – which were discovered off the Gaza coast in 2000.

    Ahmed quoted Israeli defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, to the effect that military efforts to ‘uproot Hamas’ were in part driven by Israel’s determination to prevent Palestinians developing their own energy resources. Ahmed also cited Anais Antreasyan who argued, in the highly-respected University of California’s Journal of Palestine Studies, that this is part of a wider strategy of:

    ‘separating the Palestinians from their land and natural resources in order to exploit them, and, as a consequence, blocking Palestinian economic development. Despite all formal agreements to the contrary, Israel continues to manage all the natural resources nominally under the jurisdiction of the PA [Palestinian Authority], from land and water to maritime and hydrocarbon resources.’

    At the time of writing, Ahmed’s July 9 piece has received a massive 68,000 social media shares and is far and away the most popular Guardian article on the Gaza conflict. In the event, however, it was the last article published by him in the Guardian. The following day, his valuable Earth Insight blog, covering environmental, energy and economic crises, was killed off.

    The Earth Insight series had accrued around three million views and was the most popular Guardian environment blog. It published stories which went viral, generating global headlines, such as Ahmed’s interview with ex-CIA official Robert Steele on the ‘open source revolution’ (44,000 Facebook shares); the Pentagon’s Minerva project and Ministry of Defence initiatives targeting domestic activists and political dissidents (47,000 shares); and the little-understood link between NSA mass surveillance and Pentagon planning for the impact of climate, energy and economic shocks.

    Ironically, given that the Guardian has just dumped him, Ahmed recently won a 2015 Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for a Guardian article on Ukraine, published earlier this year. He also won a 2014 Project Censored award for his first Guardian article, published in 2013, which was about food riots as ‘the new normal’. This year, Ahmed was also included as one of the Evening Standard’s ‘Power 1000’ most globally influential Londoners, in the ‘Campaigners: Ecowarriors’ section.”

    It was the BBC that did a fake news story in 2001 which caught Tony Rooke’s eye and caused him to refuse to pay his TV licence fee, which went to court, he got off as his evidence had an effect on the Old Bailey:


    For a look at Building 7 and his evidence, go to Tony Rooke UK Film-maker’s ‘Incontrovertible 9/11’:


    The linked facebook note outlines some of my discoveries and thoughts about the 9/11 event:


    I’ve placing this material into the Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade select committee’s TPP treaty examination process, this is one of my papers from April 2016, “US – Aotearoa Values – Do theses Correlate?” which makes these connections between alliance, capitalism, trade, militarism, empire and wellbeing (or inverse wellbeing):


    It might be even more helpful to get our NZ Government to move away from supporting US militarism. We do that by continuity of the UK-USA intelligence alliance, and this colours everything we attempt.

    We do ourselves an absolute disservice by ignoring the facts! There is a cliqué from 1984 by George Orwell;

    “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

    Ingsoc (Newspeak for English Socialism or the English Socialist Party) is the political ideology of the totalitarian government of Oceania in George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

    Those who gave us 9/11 control the future until we take control in the now.. and alter the future course set in place by the 9/11 event….

    Unpacking that event is the key to peace and an egalitarian and abundant future…

    As for the slur “Conspiracy Theorist” it needs to be dealt with as there are now lots of idiots on the left using this slur as a put down to any people or ideas they are uncomfortable with.. those who employ it are totalitarian in their mindset, as they opine that they know everything or what’s best.

    I refer to Professor Charles Pigden’s thesis, “Conspiracy Theories and the Conventional Wisdom” and provide part of the abstract for your consideration:


    “Conspiracy theories should be neither believed nor investigated – that is the conventional wisdom. I argue that it is sometimes permissible both to investigate and to believe. Hence this is a dispute in the ethics of belief. I defend epistemic ‘oughts’ that apply in the first instance to belief-forming strategies that are partly under our control. I argue that the policy of systematically doubting or disbelieving conspiracy theories would be both a political disaster and the epistemic equivalent of self-mutilation, since it leads to the conclusion that history is bunk and the nightly news unbelievable. In fact (of course) the policy is not employed systematically but is only wheeled on to do down theories that the speaker happens to dislike. I develop a deductive argument from hard-to-deny premises that if you are not a ‘conspiracy theorist’ in my anodyne sense of the word then you are an ‘idiot’ in the Greek sense of the word, that is, someone so politically purblind as to have no opinions about either history or public affairs. The conventional wisdom can only be saved (if at all) if ‘conspiracy theory’ is given a slanted definition. I discuss some slanted definitions apparently presupposed by proponents of the conventional wisdom (including, amongst others, Tony Blair) and conclude that even with these definitions the conventional wisdom comes out as deeply unwise… ”

    As with Alice, the only way to really find out anything is to go down the rabbit hole…