Last week I was in New York at a conference on Rethinking International Investment Governance – the investor-state dispute system (ISDS) that lets transnational corporations enforce special rights through secretive, offshore, pro-investor tribunals.
Whether to ‘burn it down’ or seek reform from within is just one of many debates taking place around the world, as turmoil and turbulence envelopes international trade and investment treaties and negotiations.
To quote my favourite Gramsci line: we are in an interregnum. The old regime of international economic agreements is dying. We are surrounded by morbid symptoms of its demise. The new is yet to be born. We don’t know what it will look like.
If we don’t mobilise to bring about a new paradigm, we will face a revival of the corporate-led neoliberal agenda that served financialised capitalism, or the populist assertion of power epitomised by Trump. The stakes are enormously high.
On 19-20 October we will launch own national debate on what an alternative and progressive trade and investment strategy for Aotearoa should look like at a hui at the Fale Pasifika at Auckland University. The sponsors include the NZCTU and many affiliate unions, NGOs Oxfam and Greenpeace, Ora Taiao: New Zealand Climate and Health Council, among others.
The hui is deliberately timed to coincide with a round of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations at Sky City, a deal involving China, India, Japan, ASEAN and others that follows the same flawed TPPA model.
Our aim is to move beyond campaigns to stop these deals one by one, and create popular and political momentum for a genuinely alternative agenda. The focus is forward looking to anticipate challenges that confront us and what must change to address them.
Ngati Whatua will lead the way with a mihi whakatau, as they did on the day the TPPA was signed, with a strong Maori presence throughout the hui. The ten discussion panels range from big picture questions of foreign policy, economics and development, concerns of knowledge, health, and human rights, the future of livelihoods and environment, to empowering women and local businesses and communities.
The stellar participants’ list has doctors, unionists, academics, consumer representatives and community activists alongside household names like Rod Oram, Margaret Mutu, Sam Huggard, Bernard Hickey, Annette Sykes and Russel Norman. You can see the programme on itsourfuture.org.nz/hui-2018.
We invite you to join us in person (although space is limited), or by the live feed on itsourfuture.org.nz/hui-2018 or daily blog. Help us to convert the resistance to the TPPA and similar corporate-led deals into a new platform for a genuinely new paradigm for Aotearoa and the world.