‘The “Trade for All” consultation announced by the Prime Minister today is predictably underwhelming and lacks credibility’.
It has taken almost a year for the government to announce a decision to establish a Trade for All board, whose membership is yet to be determined. The new ‘Trade for All’ policy is to be announced in June next year, eighteen months after the government came to power.
The long list of current negotiations the Prime Minister read out today confirms it is ‘business as usual’ in a raft of large-scale negotiations that put ‘trade with all’ way ahead of ‘trade for all’.
‘There is nothing that reflects the new “trade for all” agenda in the current negotiations. Nothing to address the “loss of confidence in the trade agenda” that the Prime Minister referred to, let alone to rebuild that confidence. Nor is there anything to “spread the benefits evenly”.’
‘It is worrying that the Prime Minister aims to ensure New Zealand’s values and sovereignty were not “unduly compromised” in the quest for more market access. But the shroud of secrecy continues, leaving us in a “trust me” zone with a government that has given us no grounds to do so’.
I expect changes to the negotiating mandate in the Pacific Alliance on gender, small and medium enterprises, and regional development to result in ‘rhetorical clip-ons’ that do nothing to counter the negative impacts on them of the far-reaching chapters on services, investment, intellectual property or government procurement.
‘Reports from both the Pacific Alliance and the RCEP negotiations suggest that even the promised exclusion of investor-state dispute settlement will not be achieved’.
Most of these current negotiations were begun by National. Labour and NZ First have continued them. PACER-plus, which is currently before the House, is the product of a decade long process begun by a previous Labour government. I describe the final deal as ‘a mockery of claims to be pro-development’. The two largest Pacific island countries, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, refused to sign.
The Prime Minister pointed to the new negotiations with the European Union as the first initiative under Trade for All – a slogan the EU itself coined several years ago.
I note that the European version has met similar scepticism from civil society, academics and politicians who are concerned about growing inequalities, financial and job instability, consolidation of corporate power and a corresponding loss of regulatory sovereignty.
To fill the void of genuine alternatives coming from the government, a number of organisations, including the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, It’s Our Future, Doctors for Healthy Trade, and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation will co-convene a two-day hui at the University of Auckland on 19-20 October to discuss ‘What an Alternative and Progressive Trade Strategy Should Look Like’. More information on that hui will be available shortly.