Add ‘Trade for All’ to the list of government sell-outs

By   /   May 16, 2019  /   38 Comments

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Some have asked why my radio silence over recent months. Simple. Once it became clear that I could have zero influence on this government’s trade and investment policy, I have been working where I can make a difference. There are other governments, international institutions, and influencers who are genuinely rethinking the current rule-book and resisting moves to make it even worse.

Some have asked why my radio silence over recent months. Simple. Once it became clear that I could have zero influence on this government’s trade and investment policy, I have been working where I can make a difference. There are other governments, international institutions, and influencers who are genuinely rethinking the current rule-book and resisting moves to make it even worse.

Remember Labour’s promise of a new progressive trade strategy as part of a new post-neoliberal era? Trade minister David Parker’s speech to the Pacific Economic Cooperation AGM last Thursday on the state of NZ’s trade policy finally put paid to any pretence of that. Nothing in trade policy has, or is about to, change. Just like the welfare report, climate change, capital gains tax, Treaty policy, and too much more. Ours is a conservative, neoliberal Labour-NZ First government, with the Greens timidly in train.

This apathy is cocooned in a deep complacency. Parker claims the implementation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – the TPPA without the US – has ‘made a big contribution to restoring the “public license” for New Zealand’s trade policy’. He points to the suspension of its ‘most challenging provisions’ and reduced application of ISDS as dealing with the ‘insecurities that are driving populism and anti trade rhetoric’. Few people made submissions and only around 100 people turned up to protests. The ministry has continued an intensive programme of outreach; although attendance is sometimes low, ‘we have persisted’.

Let’s interrogate Parker’s claims. First, the old TPPA still exists, its potentially crippling IP items are just suspended, and investors from Japan, Canada, Singapore, Chile, Mexico can still sue the government under the revised agreement.

Second, people knew from the first time around that the select committee submission process was a farce, so why bother with another submission except as a matter of duty?

Third, people stop turning up to ‘outreach’ sessions where intransigent officials make self-justificatory presentations, won’t disclose information, and don’t think there’s a need to change anything.

Fourth, people protest when they believe they can make a difference. Some were exhausted after a 6-year campaign that fell on government’s deaf ears. Some were dispirited by the how readily the new government reneged on its pre-election policies and embraced the cynical rebranding of the TPPA as ‘progressive and inclusive’.

Others, mainly Labour supporters, wanted to give the new government promised ‘Trade for All’ process a chance.

But this was never a government priority. It took almost a year after the election for Parker even to announce the details: ‘have a say’ on a website run by MFAT, and an advisory board to make recommendations on a ‘progressive, sustainable and inclusive trade policy’. Even the slogan wasn’t original. The EU launched its ‘trade for all’ agenda back in 2014.

I was profoundly sceptical, but was asked to withhold judgement. Well, judgment time has come.

Pattrick Smellie asked at the time whether there would be room for critics on the advisory board such as myself. David Pine, appointed to chair the board, said: “Yes. The Prime Minister made the point that a significant group of New Zealanders have lost confidence. We’ve got to hear them. We’ve got to really understand what their concerns are and there’s no point in the process if it doesn’t engage with people who are critical.”

My offer to join the board was declined. Several Maori who were approached predicted it would not be a good use of their time. The board membership wasn’t finalised until December last year. I won’t pass comment on the 23 members, except to note they are very busy people, most of whom have very little knowledge of trade and investment agreements.

The process, which has about 6 months left to run, has been underwhelming. The website www.tradeforalladvisoryboard.org.nz is sparse and random. The ‘About’ page says their task is to ‘take a deep dive into New Zealand’s trade policy’, but the board has held only three half-day meetings, starting last December. There is no independent research budget.  It is serviced by MFAT; indeed the ‘have your say’ link takes you to a propaganda video from Parker which was devised for MFAT’s ‘outreach’ process.

Under ‘Resources’ there are three sub-tabs: ‘meetings’, which contains the chair’s summary of the three meetings; ‘other’ has one press release and the terms of reference; and ‘uncategorised’ is where you can find the draft table of content for the board’s report!

The report’s framework was only settled last month; its recommendations are due by the end of the year. The 5 chapters itemise a scattergun of issues. As a full-time researcher on these matters, I know that each chapter would require many months of full-time research, consultation, and redrafting to be done properly.

At the same time, there are serious gaps. Most of the public policy issues that concerned us in the campaign against the TPPA are mentioned in passing towards the end. Intellectual property isn’t mentioned at all. ‘E-commerce’ rules that lock in Big Tech’s control of the digital domain – which the government has dived headlong into without understanding its implications – don’t appear until the final chapter. Protections for foreign investors and ISDS are largely ignored.

Any report that covers the table of contents, even at a highly superficial level, will depend heavily on the scribes. Apparently, three people are going to write this report. They are not members of the board, but will consult with them. They might reach out to others – but remember they have no research budget. Yet I am told we can’t know who they are, because they are just the scribes!  That alone has reinforced my suspicion that at least some of them are controversial choices in whom we would have little confidence.

But, in the end it doesn’t really matter. Parker’s speech confirmed that this is all about the optics: ‘to shape and add to the process of rebuilding public support for New Zealand’s trade policy’. It is not about changing the substance of trade and investment policy.

Meanwhile, Parker proudly recounts the long list of negotiations and upgrades of existing agreements that are underway, and hails New Zealand’s leadership in trying to rescue the WTO and expand its rules into new arenas – such as e-commerce.

Like many, I feel dispirited and disaffected as Labour, NZ First and the Greens have entrenched New Zealand’s neoliberal obligations even more deeply in the name of ‘trade’, however predictable that was. But, true to the campaign’s rubric ‘It’s Our Future’, we will find new strategic opportunities to make a difference. New Zealand is host the APEC in Auckland in 2021, and that’s plenty of time to prepare.

 

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38 Comments

  1. Castro says:

    Remember the Wage Slave Labour Party introducing Rogernomics and signing a Free Slave Deal with the ethno-nationalist Han Chinese dictatorship?

    Oh, wait… you work for that dictatorship, right?

    https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/exclusive-buying-essays-ghostwriters-allegedly-widespread-among-international-students-nz-universities

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Yes jane,

      We are all slaves to the “ruling classes’ now, but when I was a teenager in the 1950 we had no real ruling classes only Government, and lots of egaliterianism spread around to seed fairness among the masses.

      Tosday NZ is systemetically being torn aport leaving a wide valley between the ‘have’s and have not’ anything, so on we march to the eventual awakening of the masses to revolt against this hive of dispair and dispirited, dispossessed souls within us all.

      Please dont give up Jane, as we need to continue the long road to justice for all.

    • michelle says:

      plus 100 Castro

  2. esoteric pineapples says:

    In all areas, this government seems to have disappointed those with higher expectations. So that leaves us with the big question of how to enact change when neither a National or Labour led government is going to enact them themselves

  3. Rosemary McDonald says:

    “Ours is a conservative, neoliberal Labour-NZ First government, with the Greens timidly in train.”

    Yes, sadly.

    We were hopeful weren’t we ?

    Thanks for looking into the “Trade for All” thing…looks like a duck…

    Another sham.

    So where to from here, Jane?

    (I am thinking of yourself, Bryan Bruce and Christine Rose getting a new party off the ground? Maybe? Please?)

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      WITH ,… the strong backing , … if not general oversight and formation of a political party , …based on the NZ Trade Union movement….

      The only group big enough to punch above their weight and threaten both Labour and National simultaneously. By forming a political party to destroy neo liberalism in this country.

      THEN we would see some action.

    • dennis dorney says:

      There is no point in a new party unless you can guarantee that it will get the necessary 5% of the vote. If not, their party vote will be wasted and your vote will put in a National government. The most urgent job is to change MMP for an STV. MMP leads eventually to first-past -the post, which Labour and National want. No vote is wasted using STV.

      • spikeyboy says:

        How is it possible for your vote to be wasted when the difference between Labour and National is really very slim. National means full steam ahead and Labour a breather and cup of tea but certainly no change of direction. The wasted vote argument is a complete nonsense in such an environment and only serves to entrench the current direction.

    • ach says:

      A new party, really? How many parties are there now? How many short-lived parties have there been? All the parties in parliament have been co-opted into the neo-lib framework; Parliament is essentially one party, but with a revolving brand name every few years. Since the stakes for the winners of neo-liberalism are so high, sadly no serious reforms will happen in NZ without widespread protests & civil disobedience to paralyse parts of the country. This will probably be met with violence from NZ’s paramilitary police force which in turn will spark violent unrest. Kiwis need to feel more pain for all this to occur, but it will happen. The question is when. NZ has twice as many politicians per capita as the UK has & they are better paid than their UK counterparts. More venal MPs and parties are not the answer.

      • Sam Sam says:

        Yeah a new party, why not? The revolution isn’t going to happen. Workers aren’t going to rise up and do anything. How could they, how could workers solve climate change? They can’t, we need the government to solve it.

  4. DOC HORRORDAY says:

    Oh and what was the appointments criteria, and who made up that list? Of course that is obscured and you are not allowed to know, that they just got the list from DPMC who got it from MFAT, who got it direct from the Chamber of Commerce.

    You are not allowed to know the ghostwriters either, was it Deloittes or PWC this time? Yeah I know all the tricks

    Neither are you allowed to pry the mask off the concealed donors to the political parties, neither are you allowed to audit the Trusts, and neither are you allowed to have a Landlord Registry as they do in the UK.

    Because all of these hidden things are the same thing, that is the Anonymous Oligarchy who are usurping the nation and taking advantage to the maximum whenever they can, and ring-fencing out all prying eyes as often as they can.

    Are they criminal? I suppose eventually that comes down to how much of getting usurped by an anonymous oligarchy you can stomach. Personally I’ve had my fill… how about you?

  5. Kia ora Rosemary
    Many if not most of the people who voted for the Labour, the Alliance, New Labour, the Maori Party, Mana, the Greens and New Zealand First ended up feeling disappointed or betrayed.
    Yet they (or rather some steadily declining proportion of them) keep on voting for the politicians or parties that have betrayed them in the past. Hope springs eternal in the human breast, and hope itself, even if irrational and misguided, brings some comfort to the troubled soul.
    When or if hope in the old leader or the old party is finally lost forever, there is the hope that a new leader or a new party will be different.
    Really though, if we were to learn from experience (which requires us to analyse that experience with diligent objectivity) we would come to the understanding that it is the political model and not particular politicians or parties that delivers the outcomes which are so objectionable to us. Construct a new political model (which is within the power of a smaller number of people than are required to establish a new party under the present regime) and you will have good outcomes for generations to come.
    The regime gives you the right to “Vote and complain”. If that is sufficient for you, then of course there is no need to start doing things differently, at least until your “right to complain” is subject to intolerable restriction.

    • MickeyBoyle says:

      Exactly, we whinge and whine but still vote for the people who fail us.

    • Rosemary McDonald says:

      Tena koe, Geoff.

      I was brought up to believe that the people who want to be elected representatives tend to be egocentrics who should never be allowed anywhere near the seats of power.

      However…in 2017 the situation had become so dire that my similarly inclined partner and I decided that our pathetic couple of votes just might get rid of the Nats…and of course Labour and the Greens were both promising CHANGE. (Sorry to shout…but they did!)

      Some of these people actually fronted up to the anti TPPA marches some of us participated in.

      Both my man and I remember how shit Labour had been in past terms and we were disinclined to wholeheartedly trust them.

      So…between the two of us the Greens got three votes and Labour one.

      Arguably we could have voted three Labour and one Green and Labour may have had more of a mandate but hell, who knew that there were enough of the Blue Rinse Brigade alive and able enough to vote for Winston?

      Whatever…we have what we have….and by god, Jacinda did say ‘Call me out if I don’t stump up.”

      Consider yourself called out Jacinda.

      However…I’m not sure how to change the political model…but I do know we need to rid ourselves of know -nothing wannabes who despite warm fuzzy messaging manage to leave the country worse off after their term expires.

      I hear John Banks is thinking of restoring sanity to Auckland and standing for mayor…the last time, didn’t we all say (us non Aucklanders) that re-electing him after he’d had a break just proved how stupid the voting public can be.

      My change to the system…make “no confidence in any of these numpties” a valid voting choice.

  6. Lois Griffiths says:

    “My offer to join the board was declined.”

    Oh dear! This is bad!

  7. countryboy says:

    Excellent Post @ Prof JK. Thanks for the effort.
    Yeah…!? What the fuck is going on?
    Have we been sold? Has someone bought us? Why do I feel like a slave in a foreign land who doesn’t speak the language but sees the leg irons come out and I see a big scary bastard with them heading my way!
    I think the TPPA is a means to a polite and bloodless coup.
    Have the neoliberals have sold us out now that they have the money from the sell-offs of our stuff and things? They’ve sold us to be exploited further.
    When I read that while we suffer financial hardship at street level the Westpac Bank still makes $555 million PROFIT from us in six months.
    Are labour, nz first and the greens both useless and devious. It seems they don’t give a damn about us and you can easily see that by virtue of adern fucking about in France while there are homeless people in the streets and families living in cars here. That’s how you fucking know. Look at the facts. The facts speak for themselves.
    And this on RNZ today.
    So, this is why the Tron is the Tron, aye?
    Mayor tries to block report that references colonisation, capitalism
    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/389325/mayor-tries-to-block-report-that-references-colonisation-capitalism
    Jesus wept…

  8. sean says:

    Yes lets cast all the bullshit about national leadership and change from Labour and its coalition aside and accept that the 80’s move to neo liberalism is alive and well. Very little has changed and much of what has is for the worst if the CP-TPP is any indicator.

    Thank you Jane for everything you tried to do and have done. If you ever decide to set up a party I’d be delighted to vote for you.

  9. Philg says:

    Yes CB. This ‘government’ is looking more like Business As Usual, with an international celeb, as leader. At this rate, when will NZ’s Trump appear?

  10. michelle says:

    Yes we need new blood a new party with a new leader we seem too much of the same Professor Kelsey would be great. I would vote for her too but shes probably not interested but we can only try. She (Kelsey also has a wide grasp of many issues.

  11. michelle says:

    Yes we need new blood a new party with a new leader we seem too much of the same Professor Kelsey would be great. I would vote for her too but shes probably not interested but we can only try. She (Kelsey also has a wide grasp of many issues.

  12. michelle says:

    Maori homelessness rates just revelled from the housing first collective initiative says Maori make up 40% homelessness in Auckland. Our current government needs to fix this with the same urgency chch terrorism got. The time for talking is over the time for doing is now. If they don’t fix this serious problem they will lose all the Maori seats and people like me will be out there lobbying our Maori whanau to vote for someone else who will deliver. I will also work for free to ensure they are gone if they don’t deliver as i did to get rid of national.

  13. michelle says:

    Maori homelessness rates just revelled from the housing first collective initiative says Maori make up 40% homelessness in Auckland. Our current government needs to fix this with the same urgency chch terrorism got. The time for talking is over the time for doing is now. If they don’t fix this serious problem they will lose all the Maori seats and people like me will be out there lobbying our Maori whanau to vote for someone else who will deliver. I will also work for free to ensure they are gone if they don’t deliver as i did to get rid of national.

  14. Marc says:

    You have to get honest with people also, that the alternative means that we have to fend for ourselves, and not rely as much as we do on the global economic and financial system as it is.

    That may mean some sacrifices, which the consumerist citizens of NZ Inc are not willing to make. They are addicted to cheap imports from slave wage countries, they are addicted to consumerism, they remain addicted to products made in jurisdictions where there is stuff all enforcement of environmental laws, they are addicted to a buy, waste and consume society, where we have huge piles of rubbish created, and nobody wants to pay for fossil fuel costs as they should be accounted for, as they destroy our environment.

    A radical revolution would create a truly alternative economy, that may mean going the way as Cuba went after 1959, and to some degree where North Korea is, but without the coal and nuclear energy use.

    Tweaking trade rules and laws a bit is what Labour are great at, are we up to a real alternative, a green energy powered revolution for the economy, where NZ Inc becomes a leader in use and propagation of alternative energy technology?

    I sadly see NO signs of this being anticipated, so Jane, keep dreaming, the government is like most firmly locked into the fossil fuel, neoliberal free trade economic and financial framework, and as most people depend on it, and celebrate symbolic and idiotic ‘achievements’ like getting ‘rid’ of one way plastic bags, we live in totally deluded fantasy land.

    • Marc says:

      Add the environmental threat we face from mass tourism and huge foreign trade volumes, where only a tiny percentage of cargo and luggage does actually get checked, forget the attempts to protect the environment here, i.e. the many endangered species now, already outnumbered by imported animals, plants and pests for many years.

      http://www.endangeredspecies.org.nz/projects/10-most-endangered

      To be damned honest, we may as well give up trying to protect the Kiwi and other native animals, as they will NEVER survive the present day environment that exists in NZ Inc. We are screwed already, and mass trade and mass tourism is a death nail to all of this.

      Perhaps spend that money spent on the environment on social services now, as the hundreds of millions will be a waste of time and money, we are destroying NZ Inc, and even invite ever more immigrants to do more of the same, increasing an unsustainable population.

      Free trade is disastrous, in the longer term.

    • David Hughes says:

      You are seriously saying a Cuban or North Korean society would be an improvement over the West. You are seriously in need of medication. WTF? Radical revolution? Do you even know which end of a gun shoots the bullet? Real tough guy. You are a Putz buddy.

  15. Supernaut says:

    You are seriously saying a Cuban or North Korean society would be an improvement over the West. You are seriously in need of medication. WTF? Radical revolution? Do you even know which end of a gun shoots the bullet? Real tough guy. You are a Putz buddy.

  16. Garbonza says:

    It seems more and more the Labour Coalition is targeting easy wins — 1) Coming out against mass murder in Christchurch, though who knows what if anything their measures taken against it happening again will deliver. It’s a no lose position, taking an obvious no-risk no-expenditure position accompanied by minimal effort; 2) Coming out against lack of housing — all talk, and ditto; and on and on in not delivering promises made before the election. And in the end the electorate is supposed to be satisfied with, “Well, we tried…” Well, they haven’t, and my bet is they never will. Justice delayed (indefinitely) is justice denied.

  17. Jody says:

    Looks like companies are starting to cash in their chips with Tip Top and Vodafone being sold off. Thanks for your dedication and service New Zealanders, but overseas investors are more important. The sale of iconic Tip Top itself seems pointless, sold for the equivalent of Fonterra staff wages/salaries for only 6 months. They will still need our infrastructure though, and of course our environment can be sacrificed for their bottom line (kiwi jobs are safe for now).

  18. michelle says:

    NZers need to change their banks and banking attitude the Aussie banks are ripping us of making millions while closing down services. We have no westpac atm machine in both Taita and Stokes (vegas) valley the nearest atm is in Naenae to me this shows they don’t care.

  19. michelle says:

    vodafone are crap im sick of their crap service and I am not happy about our tip top ice cream if they change the recipe i will stop buying it and so will many others.

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