Why would any self-respecting New Zealander oppose the TPPA when National was in government and then excuse Labour for signing up to it?


It has been astonishing to read some reaction on The Daily Blog to Labour’s decision to support the TPPA – albeit with some minor – trivial in fact – amendments.

These arguments suggest the “left” should tone down criticism of Labour for this decision and recognise that the right wing are so powerful and well-organised that if the new government doesn’t support the TPPA then it will be undermined, face a vile media/business backlash and pass up any chance for real progressive change in any area.

Unbelievable! Wrong! Idiotic!

In some ways this is a rerun of the argument from the 1980s as Labour trashed the economy and working people’s lives. Middle class Labour activists were kept on side with progressive social policy (a nuclear ban, isolation of apartheid South Africa and homosexual law reform) while the government smashed workers and their families. Today it’s the same middle-class Labour activists who are turning a blind eye to the neo-liberal TPPA while applauding, for example, the Kiwibuild programme which will support middle class children to get their first home while 41,000 homeless working-class people will get just 1000 new state homes – yes that’s right, just a miserly 1000 – built by the Labour-led government each year.

Labour says it has negotiated a softening of some of the most odious of the TPPA’s provisions, but this doesn’t pass the sniff test. The ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement) process remains intact. All that has been negotiated is a small reduction in the circumstances where it can be used.

The simple truth remains that foreign corporations will be able to sue our government if changes to our laws hurt their profits. More insidious than actually being sued by a foreign corporation is the chilling effect this will have on any future government wanting to legislate to improve our environment or prevent public health standards being eroded by big corporates as they are now. Officials pointing to the risk of being sued, or rumblings from foreign multinationals, will be enough for most politicians to back off.

Let’s remind ourselves of two other basic facts:

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Firstly, TPPA is in essence a Bill of Rights for foreign corporations to extend their plunder of our economy. The big Australian banks have been doing this for decades. In 2015 for example the BNZ, ANZ, ASB and Westpac took over $4.4 billion in profit from this country. Our current account deficit will increase still further through the TPPA as we become pawns to more foreign investors looking for quick bucks from our back pockets.

Secondly the major purpose of the TPPA is to cement in place the neo-liberal reforms of the past 30 years. They want to restrict or prevent future regulations undermining the dominant position they have gained in the global economy. In other words they want neo-liberalism to live on even as it is rejected by working people around the world.

So what about the claimed benefits of the TPPA?

The TPPA provides only nominally better access to some markets for a few of our products. By nominal I mean the predicted benefit to the economy was estimated by Foreign Affairs and Trade to be a miserly $1 billion dollars by 2030 – yes that’s right – $1 billion by 2030! That’s less than the margin of error on Treasury estimates for the size of the economy from one year to the next, let alone 13 years out. And that was before the US pulled out – heaven knows how much more paltry the economic benefits will be now.

For example it will NOT guarantee better access to any markets for our dairy products – they are as dead in the water as they always have been. Japanese farmers, (Japan is now the biggest economy in the revived TPPA), who have a greater sense of sovereignty and self-respect than New Zealand farmers, are as vehemently opposed to NZ dairy imports as ever and these will remain stalled.

The TPPA is NOT even a “free-trade” agreement in the usual sense. Only a few chapters deal with trade – the rest deal with such issues as copyright or intellectual property rights of large corporations.

So why would any self-respecting activist oppose the TPPA when National were in government and then excuse Labour for signing up to it?

Progressive New Zealanders should vigorously oppose Labour’s decision to support the TPPA and welcome the Greens principled decision to oppose it.

As things stand we face the truly awful spectacle of a grand coalition of Labour and National joining forces in parliament to pass legislation setting in place this truly odious agreement.

It’s not too late to stop Labour signing up to it. Wring of hands and making pathetic excuses for Labour signing up to it will do nothing. Active democratic opposition can.

Let’s get active.


  1. I totally endorse this article John. Excellent !
    I rather suspect Chris Trotter’s previous was designed to stimulate such reaction.
    D J S

  2. it is important that there is time now for demanding that the full details of “Zombie CPTPP11” are revealed, and for the public to decide clearly what they think of it all, and then hopefully get organised to put strong pressure on the government not to ratify

  3. I remain skeptical ovethe TPP. The fact that an incoming National government could endorse provisions that Labour rejected is dangerous and not reassuring. Especially if the Natsallow housing to be once again bought by foreign speculators.

    It’s a daft game the Labour is playing. They should have dumped the whole thing and gone for a FTS with the European Union. At least the EU has Labour and environment standards tat Mach outs, so we aren’t competing with polluting economies that exploit wage waged workers.

  4. Labour is still a business-as-usual political party and still believes that slight tweaking of business-as-usual will suffice, even as everything -the environment, the energy supply, the financial system- collapses around them.

  5. Unfortunately people are blinkered, they want to give Labour ‘a chance’. Well this is the first big mistake they have made and we shouldn’t be letting them off the hook for this.

  6. point of order….the CPTTP has yet to be completed and agreed so nothing has yet been signed by anyone…..and it would be wise not to count any unhatched chickens. a trap that the Nats fell into with the TPPA.

  7. The question is will labour listen to the public – or ignore them like national? I still believe a protest march in order to show it doesn’t matter who is power – the TPP, or whatever it’s called, stinks for New Zealanders.

    • Top marks to you, John, for being consistent, something which cannot be said for other so called left wing commentators.
      Let’s hope the whole thing falls over because Labour is hell bent on signing up, thus selling us off to the corporates (and letting us down yet again).

  8. Well, I have to say, the early days of Labour in government have me concerned that the same power brokers are dealing behind the scenes. Ardern is being manipulated into focusing on issues that are not popular with the general NZ public. The left needs to ask why.

  9. If the new government are really going to make a difference, it’s got to be ‘no’ to the CPTPP. We don’t just want a pig with lipstick!

  10. Yeah Winstons get tough with Neo liberalism speech was just that……TALK NO ACTION

    If they had been serious about freeing the country from corporate slavery the first act would have been to pull out of the TPPA.

    It could have been Jacindas real nuclear free moment.

    Instead they are already submissive and in retreat.

    There is no working peoples party except the Greens and Labour have proved that all over again.

    I am glad i held my nerve and voted Green.

    Labour is a oxymoron because it does not recognise the meaning of the word.

  11. John if you could start a movement for constructive democratic change and can get cut through that makes people sit up and take notice i will vote for Real Democratic Change as a option at the next general election.

    I just think that the more things change ( Labour NZF ) the more they stay neo liberal.

  12. The “free trade” agenda may be a zombie, but it will stagger on, animated by the corporate elites that benefit from it, until a new vision for global political-economic cooperation can replace it. This is not something political parties can do by themselves, especially while engaged in the desperate juggling act of being in government.

    Where are the conversations taking place about sustainable, socially just futures, and the kinds of political-economic structures that are required to support and nurture them? How can we participate in these conversations and feed their insights back into parliamentary politics? Here’s an example of one organisation doing this visioning and research work:

  13. Sometimes I lie in bed and dream of a nz where a strong left faction had got control of nz labour and elected John Minto as it’s new leader. Minto went on to publish a manifesto…for the many not the few….and won the hearts and minds of the nation. Young people sang oh oh John minto in the streets. He was seen as nz’s one true authentic, pincipled voice. He was invincible due to never actually ever having wavered from a true progressive set of principles. Photos were dredged up of 1981. Of him speaking out at pretty much every anti globalisation rally in living memory. He swept to power and a new, optimistic era began.

    Instead we have the same old same old. Sigh.

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