Converting resistance to TPPA into a new agenda for change


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.

TDB Recommends

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

We invite you to join us in person (although space is limited), or by the live feed on 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.



  1. Infrastructure is one of the tenants of foreign direct investment (FDI) that the government is preaching. Infrastructure in the form of FDI is capital brought in from outside New Zealand, into New Zealand injecting capital not just from sovereign wealth funds or from family offices but from sovereign wealth funds and investment funds. New Zealand has lots of opportunities because a lot of New Zealand and especially regional New Zealand is underdeveloped to the level of Australia and certain parts of Asia. The potential returns is significant particularly once we solve poverty and on a global bases. From the people living under Mangere Bridge to Parnel what they have in common is cell phones. Cell phones have become so cheap every one has access to the Internet and massive amounts of commerce. Remember the adage buy low, sell high, you don’t really buy high and sell higher so there’s opportunities especially when you’re courting global capital.

    What’s of interest is investing through trusted third parties and / or advanced technologies to solve problems in particular to rescue New Zealand’s banks and regional banking from what some might consider the weaponisation of the U.S. Dollar but let’s explain it in away that’s some what less politically incendiary. The U.S. Dollar has increased significantly in strength and price and as a result various buyers who don’t have a stable currency drains there reserves. That’s a fancy way of saying any one who doesn’t have a strong currency has U.S. Debt / dollars or is in trouble. The issue is regional banks are probably lacking in money and office space right now so we need investors to come in and fund these leases to give New Zealand a hedge to prevent any further contagion from strangling regional commerce. These investors would have a significant return on capital “short term.” The issue is where would the money come from, the government wouldn’t want to put the money up themselves but they could do a proof of concept but essentially shopping a deal around for local banks of less than say 2500 depositors but every where.

    It would be fascinating bringing funds in from regional New Zealand through Queens Street and New York City and fund regional banks around the pacific who are almost guaranteed to have a crack. If applied correctly then New Zealand would be a proof of concept for a truely utilitarian vehicle for solving macro economic problems. This is where New Zealanders desire to operate, differentiating from gun boat diplomacy making up all the rules and changing the way the world works.

  2. Go Jane ,

    The hardest part of a new vision is not the vision itself but the implementation of the vision .

    To create real and lasting change for this vision , the high priests of neoliberalism who continue to reside in their Wellington bastion of MFAT ,and “advise” the Government on trade , have to go .

    Continued world urban growth , population growth and consumptive growth means human collapse in decades not centuries .

    The conference is a concrete move forwards , but the collective intellect of MFAT is the real political impediment .

    Luke Skywalker not only had to build and share a vision of a better galaxy , he also had to get rid of the bad guys on the death star ,because , well , they were just , bad guys .

    Tempting as it is ,a military solution is not in our makeup but we do need new people in MFAT with a new vision right now .

    Given the new Government has had trouble implementing progressive policy with conservative and obstructive government departments, a strategy on how to invoke real change within MFAT should form a crucial part conference discussions.

    May the force be with you .

  3. Jane
    I will come to your Hui if you will answer for me the following questions only tangentially related to international trade .
    1/ Under the gold standard, was the money supply restricted to gold reserves only in terms of minted cash, or also to the non cash money supply.?
    2/ If it included bank money, not printed money, did it apply only to fiat money put into circulation by the reserve banks ? Or
    3/ did it also apply to money multiplied up to the level determined by the fractional reserve constraint. And constrained to the gold reserve equivalent by adjusting the quantity of fiat money and the reserve requirement?
    4/ When a bank loan is repaid the bank extinguishes that money, It no longer exists. I don’t think that needs to be a question. But when it is not repaid ( and therefore not extinguished) how does that effect the bank’s position? By what mechanism does it cause the bank any stress given that it was only going to be extinguished anyway?
    5/ In adopting the device of extinguishing money applied to repaying a bank loan the brains that devised the modern system presumably figured that that was the only practical point at which the supply could be controlled as from the uptake of the loan onwards the details of where that money went were not practical to follow and it all eventually finished up in other people’s deposits or in (circulation?)
    The borrower to repay would be accessing other money from circulation to make the repayments. If he /she is unable to access other circulating money to make repayments he/she is in default, the bank is not repaid so money remains in circulation that should have been extinguished on repayment of that loan, but if the borrower can’t get access to it it doesn’t get extinguished and remains out there in circulation increasing the money supply rather than decreasing it as might seem intuitive . True or false? Where is the flaw?
    6/ If 5 is sound most of defaulted loans must appear in other peoples or organisation’s bank account deposits , increasing the reserve ratio in the bank’s books . Why was QE needed to restore the deposit ratio in the bank’s books? The more defaults there were (are) the more deposits there will be. Was it purely the activities of the banks doing their own speculative investments with those deposits that got them into strife and nothing to do with the traditional bank functions at all?
    7/When a non cash transaction takes place . If a cheque is used payment is not complete until the cheque is cleared. The cheque is just a contract document. The money remains in the drawer’s bank account until it is transferred directly into the recipient’s account. In any other non cash transfer it happens more directly and quickly but never to any person or organisation outside the banking system so “circulation” implying that it is out there somewhere not in a bank as deposit or loan repayment is misleading .It is always in a bank account. I’m assuming this must be true. So in a share market crash how is any money lost? Sure value is lost. money is lost to some people, but how does the money supply ever get reduced by such an event? Does’t it get reduced , or does it only shift from one bank account to another?
    so 8/ Is the massiveand ballooning global debt matched by and directly creating a massive accumulation of reserves in the hands (bank accounts ) of some folk on the right side of the equation ?

    A penny for your thoughts
    Cheers D J S

    • 1/ the Gold Standard took responsibility for printing new money away from central authorities.

      2/ paper money is far more easily transportable than gold. Once lost it is difficult to recover or make more gold, with fiat a replacement can be printed.

      3/ once locked away gold ceases to be of any use to any one.

      4/ To increase the terms of trade nation states require large amounts of U.S. Dollars

      5/ false. The accounting error remains on bank balance sheets as derivatives or reserves which are bundled together and rehypothecated on the global debt markets.

      6/ financial risks are socialised eventually appearing on central authority balance sheets.

      7/ profit taking is not real until the shares or equities positioned is closed and the broker wire transfers your funds into your account. If how ever the share price reverses on you then you have to give the broker money to keep your account open and continue trading or go bankrupt.

      8/ countries that are net exporters of goods run a surplus. A sharp increase in the exchange rate makes exports “cheaper,” may cause high levels of growth above production and may cause inflation in exported goods. This has caused the highest growth in standards of living in New Zealand.

      It’s all about trying to honour the spirit in which we signed the Treaty of Waitangi and how we wish to design New Zealand. How do we take New Zealand and make it our own but also keeping what is uniquely kiwi, the sports, the progress, the fairness and the general shape of what we know. What I love about New Zealand is the self sustaining nature of kiwis and how they sustain themselves with in cities. It’s got to have millions of people and you’ve got to feed them and provide them with water, you need communications, science people, engineers, leadership and medical technology, schools, waste management. You have to have an energy source and some means to have a great amount of energy stored to deliver to transportation networks in a very controlled and safe manner. And we need away of coming together and agreeing to fund all these things.

      • Thanks Sam I’ll have to think about all that. Some of it is a bit separate from money and banking though.
        I do agree we have a great little country and lots of good people.And the critical needs are as you state.
        Cheers D J S

      • Yeah hi DJS. It’s fascinating going through what money production is and what people with power over money production tend to do and it turns out that every one from Roman emperors to every mid-evil prince and King and queen or who ever, they debase there currency which is away to gain money for themselves. Of course this is ethically wrong.

        The advent of central banking and debasing across the board that paper money allows, originally debasing coins meant you’d melt it down and put a bit less silver in it or what ever, and some one that’s really careful and can look and see what’s going on, well they can switch to a better money and / or keep the good ones. With paper money it’s a little different because you just print more of the paper money and that debases all of the currency at the same time so it’s a lot more uniformed.

        When you’ve got central banking and debasement it causes a lot of people to think of money a lot more than they ought to. The argument being modern society thinks way to much about money. For the last hundred years there’s been all of these markets that has cropped up as a result of fiat money for example the entire FOREX exchange market with trillions of dollars traded back and forth and these are all middle men who aren’t really providing anything other than liquidity on both sides. It used to be all on the gold standard from 1875 to 1910 so it was all just math back and fourth because it was all the same money represented by gold, basically. That allowed for a lot of prosperity because there wasn’t any taxes on trading money. Now there is taxes on trading between currencies.

        Taxes are a thing because central banks want there own monetary policy so they can print at there own rate. That’s kind of crazy but that’s one way in which we have to think more about money. Another way in which we have to think more about money is that there’s no more “sound money” anymore so you’ve got to keep up with inflation because you’ve got to keep up with debasement so we come up with all these investment professionals who’re people who’s job it is to keep up with inflation or try to beat inflation in ideal conditions but at the very least keep up with inflation.

        The CPI (consumer price index) numbers is supposedly like 1% or 2% and that’s complete fiction. If you look at how they calculate CPI and how they’ve got quality adjustments and things like that can totally fudge the numbers any way they want. Basically they say it’s 1% or 2% but the actual monetary supply is more like 8%. And 8% is probably closer to what the CPI numbers are because if you look at a price like petrol 20 years ago we were paying a dollar a litre then $2 and now we’re heading towards $3. If it was only going up by the CPI numbers of 1 or 2 percent that wouldn’t be the case and we wouldn’t be paying premiums for diary products and all of a sudden house prices is like 10x’s the average yearly income. So it’s complete fiction.

        Apart of all these distortions that I eluded to previously is we have all these investment professionals and other things that try to keep up with inflation and they try and come up with these strategies for diversification and the only reasons these strategies exist is because there’s no stable store of value like gold for instance or more recently Bitcoin. But if you had gold which is a store of value even though it is a heavily manipulated commodity, but the point is you don’t have to think much about it, and when people put way to much thought into money they necessarily detract thoughts from other stuff and that’s kind of terrible for society.

        I think we rather much more think about how to make civilisation much better and how to make society better and how we do things in away that makes civilisation more efficient, more inventions, more entrepreneurialism, more innovation, more more more. Those are the things our minds ought to be going on. Instead so much thought and brain power of an entire population goes towards money. So it’s all just basically counterfeiting money. The really big problem that I eluded to is when you have a sovereign that decides what the money is then that’s what you get, centralisation and when you centralise so much to a single point of failure then that’s a problem. So Bitcoin and / or disintermediation (getting rid of a lot of middle men) and decentralisation (getting rid of a lot of bureaucratic red tape) has a lot of relevance and a lot of different ways of achieving the results that if applied correctly can prevent a lot of these bad behaviours that result from centralised money production.

        (Apologies if this is a double up)

        • Hi Sam
          I think paper money is much more real than the money that is the overwhelming majority of the money we use. It is numbered and has a defined and controlled quantity and identity. Most money does not. And its whereabouts and it’s quantity is a mystery .
          It’s easy to confuse things of value with money because they can be exchanged. But tangible things like land and mineral/oil reserves are infinitely more reliable as articles of wealth than is money. That is why people who have access to lots of money are now making our farm land unaffordable to farmers , and our houses unaffordable to the people who have to live in them. And forestry in significant plantations sell now 10 or 20 years before being harvestable for as much as the timber will be worth when harvested.
          The nature of money and banking is so critical to everyone’s life that understanding it is vital for a democracy to have relevance as it pervades every aspect of life, that it should be being taught as core curriculum to every primary school child. Instead it is mystified, and not taught at all , Maybe not even at University. It seems that our masters think the great unwashed will better trust the concept if they do not understand, and so an aura of incomprehensibility surrounds it. Providing a wonderful opportunity for the control of humanity.
          When it works OK for a long period of time people accept that the system is OK, but as of from pre 2008 GFC it’s flaws have manifest themselves. And now the people who control the majority of it cannot see any advantage in using it for any purpose but to try to hang on to the value that it should represent. They now have so much of it that there is no way they can get any more by investing in the world of ordinary activities that produce jobs for ordinary people and allow it to thus be distributed through the population. So more and more people have no way of securing a claim to the means of living while a smaller and smaller number sit idly on ever increasing piles of unproductive buying power like Smaug on his piles of jewels in The Hobbit.
          And as far as I can see QE is only going to exacerbate this trend.
          Cheers I have to eat my dinner now.
          D J S

        • I’m just going to take that as a question and fire back quickly.

          We’ve had paradigm shifts starting with the wheel, then fire. After that we had things like pipes, the combustion engine then electricity and the integrated circuit ect. During each paradigm shift the time and space between each paradigm shift got shorter and shorter from thousands of years to hundreds of years to now we’ve gone from the IC chip to mini computers then micro computers and then the Internet which is 1993 and now we have the block-chain. The problem is with each paradigm shift you’ve got people who don’t understand it and want proof of it, claiming it’s a scam or has no inherent value. It’s not the technology it’s a misunderstanding. Those who do understand a paridigm shift capture it, own it then use it to become apart of the power structure and then squeeze you back eventually strangling you. Banking or records execs would charge artists up to or greater than 80% of revenue just to use there infrastructure to now it’s possible for for every one to buy there own infrastructure and cut out a lot of these middlemen.

          The banking issue and particularly the European banking issues are showing signs of stress and these are not new issues. For instance Italy is yet to repay its renaissance debts. As for an action plan the speculative capabilities won’t allow for that big of a boost on the speculative side because as we move towards banking collapse it just creates lower tolerances for risk. On the financial engineering side for instance with moves to push Kiwi Bank into less profitable rural situations and asset backing, that personally I think that will turn into a bad pun namely a billion trees. That’s my thought, as for whether it works or not I’ll be loading up on this side myself.

  4. Given trade involves business have you got any representatives of business attending this hui on the 19th – 20th of October?

  5. Jane, I like this sentence. “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”

    It reminds me of what Naomi Klein has said. It’s not enough just to be able to say ‘NO’ all the time.
    What is needed today , is a plan that we can say ‘YES’ too.

  6. David Stone highlighted aspects of the modern money system which indicate it is seriously flawed (if not outright fraudulent).

    It is worth noting that in prehistoric times there was no such thing as money, and that all wealth came from the land or the waters. A rock that could be shaped into a tool had value. It’s value increased once it had been shaped into a tool. if the tool wore away or broke it had no value. A piece of wood had value, a potential tool or as firewood. An item of food had value of people were hungry. If there was a super-abundance of such items it had no value. People with a surplus of one kind of item might barter for an item they needed.

    For millennia gold and silver, or coins made from gold or silver, were used as means of exchange. Then notes were issued that could be exchanged for gold. A clever concept was to issue more notes than there was gold in the vault to be exchanged for those notes, thereby increasing the money supply at the stoke of a pen. And the really clever concept was to change interest on paper notes that could not be exchanged for gold because there was not that much gold in the vault. This is the origin of fractional reserve banking.

    In some cases there was no gold in the vault and just a load of paper notes in circulation: a fully fiat (declared0 currency came into existence.

    In the modern world, a brand new car has value -let’s say $30,000. If a person takes out a loan to buy the car and then immediately crashes it beyond repair, the car goes from having high value to having zero value (or even less than zero value – a liability). However, repayment of the loan is still required, even though the asset has disappeared.

    If a person takes out a loan to purchase a house the total amount of interest paid depends on both changes to interest rates and the time of the loan. Banks prefer client to not pay back loans because they make more interest.

    Detroit houses had high value when the moor industry was thriving, and had almost no value when it vanished. Districts of Detroit were designated demolition zones. Where did the value go?

    It is possible for a person to get into debt to acquire a home and then end up with an ‘asset’ that is actually a liability they cannot survive. Such a situation occurred in the early 2000s, in the lead up to the 2008 crisis, when people were encourage to take out loans the lender knew they could not service. Worse still, expecting default, the lenders took out a form of insurance that transferred to loss to someone else. The well documented subprime lender scam.

    Over the decade since 2008 humungous amounts of fossil fuels and other resources have been extracted from the Earth. This has had the effect of propping up the money system, but has also resulted in the Earth becoming more polluted and less sustainable.

    We are very close to the point of it becoming impossible to extract ever-more fossil fuel resources (particularly oil) from the Earth. At that point the financial system implodes.

    We are also at the point of environmental damage and over-consumption seriously impacting on the capacity to grow food or harvest it from the oceans.

    To talk of trade deals which are dependent on continued use of fossil fuels and dependent on continued degradation of the environment is bizarre.

  7. Further to comments about the financial system, we should note:

    ‘The UST 10yr yield is up strongly again today at just over 3.23%. Remember it was at 3.06% this time last week so it has been quite a move. This time last month it was at 2.90%.’

    For every $100 issued as a Treasury note, the interest payment has increased by 33 cents since last month.

    Where does that extra money for interest come from? The issuing of yet more interest-bearing Treasury notes?

    Will TPTB push down interest rates to preserve the system? Or will they allow interest rates to rise further and let the system implode?

    Will oil prices rise further and the NZ dollar fall further (64.4 cents US), causing fuel costs in NZ to rise yet again and clobber discretionary spending?

    • Oh, I went for my weekend walk today, also taking me through the ‘greenery’ of Cornwall Park in Auckland, all these nice new SUVs I saw, making their owners so proud of their recently imported utility vehicles, all so much dependent on fossil fuel imports.

      I fear, if the trend continues, business and banks will succeed, and ensure the voters of the middle class will vote with their feet or rather wheels, and vote Jacinda and Winston out in 2020.

      Shortsightedness is what the NZ Inc economy is built and run on, it will never change, there would have to be a fundamental ethical and culture rethink, which I cannot see.

      The best most ordinary citizens can do is join the greenwashing brigade, and exchange one way plastic bags for multi use plastic bags, wow, what an achievement, while the climate collapse will come rushing towards us, it is the best bet in town, perhaps the TAB will take bets on when and how strong this will hit us?

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