The TPPA rubber hits the road over the next three months. After an about-face on their opposition to the original deal, the Labour and NZ First have spun as hard as they can without even sounding convinced themselves.
They made a pragmatic decision that will have consequences for decades ahead. Even without the US, the toxic elements of the old TPPA remain intact, with some suspended pending re-entry of the US. Claims that the remaining eleven might refuse to reinstate some of the suspended items in the face of US demands for even greater concessions is pure fantasy.
The government seems intent on signing the TPPA-11 on 8 March in Chile despite widespread general scepticism, and a sense of anger and betrayal among their supporters.
Opposing the signing is crucial for multiple reasons. Even those who are ambivalent about the new TPPA need to challenge the government’s backtracking on this, lest it do the same on other issues of more important to them.
For the many hundreds of thousands who truly care about the TPPA, there are real risks to achieving a progressive future in which neoliberalism is genuinely dead, as the new government has promised on election night.
Trade Minister David Parker and MFAT are running consultations where they push the line that Labour is committed to a new inclusive and progressive agenda – then they try to justify signing the TPPA. How are we going to realise that agenda with the millstone of the TPPA-11 around the country’s neck?
Their position is fraught with contradictions. It’s great that David Parker can recognise that the privileged rights of foreign investors to sue the government (ISDS) is ‘in a state of flux’ around the world, and believes the system will ‘become less popular over time’. But the latest UNCTAD figures on investment disputes show that foreign investors don’t share that view. Signing New Zealand up to our most expansive set of investor rights ever, at a time when the PM calls it a dog and the trade minister says the regime is in ‘flux’ makes no sense whatsoever.
Fundamental questions of democracy and sovereignty are also at stake. The secrecy surrounding the new text (which I believe the government genuinely wants to sees released) shows an even greater contempt for democratic scrutiny than the original negotiations. David Parker’s excuse is that the text needs legal scrubbing and translation; but even the much longer previous text was released without scrubbing or translation.
The parliamentary process, which Labour, NZ First and the Greens strongly criticised, also risks being worse. If they sign the deal, it would then be tabled in the House. The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee would call for submissions. But the committee of eight has four National members, including the chair, deputy chair, former trade minister and former foreign minister; the government has four novices to these issues, three from Labour and one from the Greens. Conveniently for NZ First, it is not on the committee. The review of the TPPA-11 can only be a cosmetic exercise. Likewise, National has already said it will supporting the implementing legislation.
Of course, people will make submissions and oppose the agreement and the legislation. But the first step is to stop the government from signing the deal. That requires pressure to put principles before pragmatism from people who feel outraged, but also have the arguments to sustain that outrage.
A round of meetings in Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin over the next two weeks aim to give people that information. The Auckland and Wellington meetings feature Laila Harré addressing issues for labour. Burcu Kilic from Public Citizen in the US is a specialist in the impacts on access to affordable medicines and the digital domain. And I will talk about the big picture and debunk the government’s claims. The other meetings will be me along with the great local activists.
Tomorrow, Its Our Future will also launch a petition urging the government not to sign and Parliament to make changes on how agreements are negotiated and adopted in the future.
It would be great if you can come along to the meetings and share the solidarity. If not, the Monday 12 Feb meeting will be webcast live through daily blog.
Join us in person or via the livefeed to ensure that the energy that fuelled the opposition to the TPPA contributes to us achieving a genuinely progressive future.