NZ Joins Breakaway Push for WTO E-Commerce Rules that Protect Google etc from Regulation


New Zealand has joined a breakaway group of around 70 countries who affirmed their intention to launch plurilateral negotiations on electronic commerce at the World Trade Organization (WTO), despite the last WTO ministerial conference refusing to give them a mandate.

The declaration was issued on the side-lines of the elite World Economic Forum meeting in Davos on Friday.

The new e-commerce template first appeared in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and remains unaltered in the revised CPTPP. It literally codifies a wish-list of rules written by the US Big Tech industry – the likes of Google, Amazon, facebook and Apple (GAFA) – to protect them from regulation. The EU’s proposal for the EU New Zealand free trade deal mirrors the TPPA, aside from more protection for privacy.

Documents I’ve obtained under the Official Information Act, although heavily redacted, show our government really has no idea of the implications.

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Despite the label ‘electronic commerce’ or ‘digital trade’ these rules are not simply about trade. They restrict governments’ ability to regulate data, source codes and algorithms, digital networks and platforms, online marketplaces, payment systems, etc.

The International Trade Union Congress, to which the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions is an affiliate, points out this is as much about workers’ rights, as it is about trade:

Algorithmic bias, workplace surveillance, electronic union blacklisting are realities and workers need their governments to protect them. We must not allow for a future in which working people’s ability to hold the giants of the digital economy accountable is limited by trade agreements. Our governments must have full power to regulate.”

The move was also condemned by civil society groups internationally, who warn that

threats to economic sovereignty … will be greatly amplified if the rapidly evolving digital economic space is governed by rules that were developed by transnational corporations (TNCs) for their own profit-making around the world… .”

Given the turbulence engulfing the digital domain, from tax evasion and abuse of monopolies to unfair labour practices and political interference in democratic elections, the last thing we need is a set of global rules that prevent governments from regulating Big Tech’s activities in New Zealand and globally.


  1. Brand globalist NZ sucking up to the trans national corporate monsters that we’re totally dependent on for our very survival. No surprises here.

    NZ has never been a truly independent nation & the likelihood of ever being so have completely evaporated. Extremely demoralising, when as I see it, our destiny is to become a life affirming, trail blazing beacon of hope & renewal.

    • The fundamental problem is the ANZAC Frigate upgrade is running 10 months over its deadline so Te Kaha will spend about 2 years in refit from May 2018, while Te Mana is scheduled for refit some time this year. All this means is we’ll have no frigates able to respond. This particularly annoying considering Jacinda is negotiating a free trade agreement with the U.K. sending $5 billion in trade past the pirate I feasted state of Somalia or around Cape Horn which is pretty dangerous. So we have to rely on the good will of others to secure our trade routes for us.

      • Why Mr mainstream bean counter? The lack of gut’s to become a mature visionary nation in our own right is our continual undoing.

        Following the rest into the abyss is downright stupid & cowardly, but unfortunately that’s who we are.

        Clean up our own back yard, future proof our nation in visionary fashion & lead by example is what we’re really bloody well here for. It’s called destiny, I know a very unpopular term nowadays, but us prophets still see & feel such things.

        • I must apologise to you mr Johny come lately. I’v just got no experience of what it’s like in the slow class. Aroha nui.

          Once upon a time it was very risky for governments to invest directly into there own economies. Now a days it’s no big deal for a government to have a sovereign wealth fund or PPPs. Managing these national reserves for the long term prospects of a nation professionally and competently is the corner stone of any future proofing policy.

          • Which of course locks us into the globalist dictatorship that pulls the strings of our government, civil service, bureaucracies, learning institutions & MSM etc.

            It’s our dependence on the global capitalist system, the corporate elite & the liberal establishment that is the main source of what of ails our people & nation.

            The trouble with mainstream guys like you Sam is that you wouldn’t know a vision or laterally thought out idea if you fell over them.

            If you really want to climb out your conventional little box like world then I suggest you swat up on some of our Maori prophets, who I feel a great affinity with. Kia Kaha.

          • Thanks to treaty settlements and huge government intervention, the Māori population is set to double and Māori GDP is expected to achieve the most growth.

            Māori people can not allow myth and mysticism to cloud there judgment. It is wrong for an Island nation not to have a merchant fleet of its own. The people will not stand ideally by while the world and all its wonders of science and health innovations and connectivity just pass them by. The Māori Party endeavoured over 12 years to turn the clock and invoke a Māori renaissance based on an a few intellectual gatekeepers, and got punished for it in the 2017 election. So it is in this context that a generation of Māori has been thrown up, ready for change.

            Either Iwi elites mobiles and take over what is theirs to govern or the government will mobilise and take over Māori customary rights and Taonga. It’s quite clear to everybody else that Iwi elites do not want to govern for all Māori because they can’t hold 700,000 people and $40 billion dollars together.

            How can Māori live with scum bags in charge of there fortunes, constantly undervaluing, constantly getting caught up in dodgy deals, corruption, acting as like money won’t solve anything. This is no good for any one.

            So Iwi elites are on there own and they’re responsible for 700,000 people. They either do it professionally and competently or die with the shame.

  2. Cheers Jane for the report.


    Better have a read of this one – new term to comprehend as the roll out of 1984 unpacks itself; Surveillance Capitalism

    The report has a number if observations from the author Shoshana Zuboff of the book the subject of the article by The Guardian’s John Naughton.

    The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff is published by Profile extract;

    The headline story is that it’s not so much about the nature of digital technology as about a new mutant form of capitalism that has found a way to use tech for its purposes. The name Zuboff has given to the new variant is “surveillance capitalism”. It works by providing free services that billions of people cheerfully use, enabling the providers of those services to monitor the behaviour of those users in astonishing detail – often without their explicit consent.

    “Surveillance capitalism,” she writes, “unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data. Although some of these data are applied to service improvement, the rest are declared as a proprietary behavioural surplus, fed into advanced manufacturing processes known as ‘machine intelligence’, and fabricated into prediction products that anticipate what you will do now, soon, and later. Finally, these prediction products are traded in a new kind of marketplace that I call behavioural futures markets. Surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, for many companies are willing to lay bets on our future behaviour.”

    While the general modus operandi of Google, Facebook et al has been known and understood (at least by some people) for a while, what has been missing – and what Zuboff provides – is the insight and scholarship to situate them in a wider context. She points out that while most of us think that we are dealing merely with algorithmic inscrutability, in fact what confronts us is the latest phase in capitalism’s long evolution – from the making of products, to mass production, to managerial capitalism, to services, to financial capitalism, and now to the exploitation of behavioural predictions covertly derived from the surveillance of users. In that sense, her vast (660-page) book is a continuation of a tradition that includes Adam Smith, Max Weber, Karl Polanyi and – dare I say it – Karl Marx.

    • Was about 40 thousand years ago when we start to see art, sculptures and so on in the archeological records. Just after humanity figured out how to throw a spear. It’s only until recently, after trying to teach AI how to throw can we really appreciate how difficult it is to throw a spear at a moving object in 3D. So the spread of art and culture and technology does not have to be synonymous with warfare. Sure we should have systems in place to protect the networks and trade vital to a nations quality of life but it doesn’t have to be what we celebrate.

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