“The Inclusive Trade agenda in the New Zealand United Kingdom free trade agreement (FTA) attempts to recover some of the credibility the Labour Government lost when it signed the unpopular CPTPP to rescue the even more unpopular TPPA”, says Auckland University Professor Emeritus Jane Kelsey.
“The chapters on Māori, gender, small businesses, environment and labour essentially concede that free trade agreements have been driven by the interests of big business and heightened economic and social equality, and marginalisation over recent decades.”
“Yet”, according to Professor Kelsey, “these chapters do nothing to redress that imbalance”,
The FTA’s enforceable rules on goods, intellectual property rights, investment, financial services, and the crucial new area of digital trade are all skewed to benefit large corporate interests.
By contrast, the “Inclusive Trade” chapters on Māori, women, small businesses are unenforceable and merely promote “cooperation activities” like research, exchanges and roadshows.
“Yes, there is reference to Te Tiriti o Waitangi/The Treaty of Waitangi, as there should be in any international agreement between New Zealand and the United Kingdom”, said Professor Kelsey.
“But the UK merely ‘notes’ it was an original signatory to the Treaty, and then washes its hands of any ongoing obligations. Every subsequent reference to the Treaty is confined to New Zealand.”
Likewise, the Māori trade chapter is “ground-breaking” in name only.
“Not only is the Māori Trade chapter unenforceable, and limited to three areas they ‘may’ cooperate on, the UK explicitly says that nothing in the chapter imposes an obligation on it to actually do anything!”
In return, the always over-optimistic economic modelling projects a maximum gain of $970 million to New Zealand’s GDP in 15 years.
Professor Kelsey points out that is about 0.3% of current GDP, or an increase on average of less than 0.02% per year over 15 years – “hardly an economic bonanza”.
And that is without considering that increases in New Zealand’s trade with the UK are already happening without the FTA and that many of those exports will be diverted from other export markets.
Professor Kelsey repeated the calls from herself and many others in Aotearoa and internationally for a comprehensive rethink of this model of free trade agreements to confront the social, environmental and economic challenges of the 21st century.