On 8 November David Parker will sit down with fellow trade ministers from the TPPA-11 countries in Da Nang, Vietnam, and decide what to do with the deal. The officials have just finished three days of intense technical discussions in Tokyo.
There is now a 50/50 chance they will agree to proceed with the deal without the US and on what terms.
At most, some of the most objectionable parts of the existing agreement will be suspended (or ‘frozen’) pending re-entry by the US. Nothing is to be rewritten, except the rules for entry into force (which previously required the US’s participation).
All its toxic elements remain, to come into effect if the US decides to re-engage.
In other words, our new government may decide in the next few days to adopt an agreement that all three parties said should not be ratified when National tabled it in the House.
What parts of the TPPA might be ‘frozen’? In Japan, the officials considered around 50 items tabled by each country. Because of the ongoing shroud of secrecy, we don’t know what was on New Zealand’s list – and the TPPA’s secrecy pact means we won’t know for at least another four years unless the government decides to tell us!
We know the eleven countries have agreed to ‘freeze’ about one third of the 50 items. A lot of these are on intellectual property (but not extending copyright for another 20 years, giving Hollywood, Sony etc the benefits without any cost to the US). Some other requests have been dropped.
The officials will try to agree on the remaining half when they reconvene in Da Nang tomorrow, then pass the remaining decisions to the trade ministers and if necessary the leaders. They won’t have a lot of time, because they will be meeting on the margins of the larger APEC meeting which they also have to attend. Hence, the 50/50 risk of an outcome.
Crucial remaining issues on the list for ‘freezing’ include investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), the ban on countries requiring personal or corporate data to be held locally (see my previous blog on the e-commerce text), and the rule that prevents state-owned enterprises from giving preference to local firms when they buy and sell products and services.
But other important items are not on the agenda. These include the special rules that protect foreign investors (a separate issue from ISDS); the annex that allows big Pharma to have greater influence over Pharmac’s decisions; the requirement to adopt international conventions on intellectual property (such as the UPOV 1991 convention on plant varieties that the Wai 262 Waitangi Tribunal report said was inconsistent with the Treaty); the government’s right to prefer buying Kiwi-made; requiring foreign firms like Amazon to have an actual presence inside New Zealand to subject them more effectively to our consumer protection and tax laws; insisting that foreign buyers of resources like forests process the logs locally to promote work, regional development and ease the shortage of products; and many more.
This is the time for action. It is time to hold the new government to account through every avenue you have available.
Remind Labour it said there was no valid economic rationale, even when the US was involved, and a potential for job losses. And that it called for a health impact assessment –repeated to the new government by Doctors for Healthy Trade this week.
Remind New Zealand First it denounced the special rights for foreign investors who could enforce them against the government for massive damages in dubious offshore tribunals. There’s no point in saying we won’t have it in future agreements if it’s in the TPPA.
Remind the Greens they said the TPPA belongs to a failed neoliberal model, when the country and the world need genuine sustainability and the capacity to address climate change.
Above all, remind them they voted for real change.