Elections 2014: Voting against the TPPA

The 2014 election season has well and truly begun, and the main issues appear to focus around inequality and the state of the economy. TPPA is hardly being discussed, even though it is a major priority for the right and cause of division for the left. We need to use people power to get the issue onto the minds of voters and politicians this election.

Jane Kelsey has written a piece on the Daily Blog about which party has the best position on the TPPA. Below we’ve fleshed some of this out a little bit more, looking at party policies where available and public statements to see exactly where they lie and where the pressure points are. We’ve also put together a list of questions for each party, as well as a list of election meetings around the country where you can go and raise these issues publicly.


Party Policies on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPPA)


While the  Act  Party has no officially listed policy on their website, they make multiple references in various press releases to the desirability of increasing trade and securing a free trade agreement with the United States. Act describe themselves as:

the only party in New Zealand that has constantly elected into Parliament a group of MPs who all agree on free trade, the Reserve Bank Act, flexible labour laws, the importance of private property rights , one law for all and the rule of law.

Make no mistake, Act are avowedly in favour of the TPPA.

Conservative Party

The Conservative Party has no policy with regards to international trade or investment agreements, however interestingly the Party did do a media release on TPPA in December 2012 when negotiations were taking place in Auckland. Here is what he had to say:

“It’s difficult to know whether the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) benefits our country, because the information and detail of what is actually proposed is being withheld from ordinary New Zealanders,” says Conservative Party Leader Colin Craig. This lack of transparency is concerning.

“This is a continuation of what we have been seeing for some time; the government putting itself in a back room, out of the public eye, and making deals that affect us all.”

“The Conservative Party is looking for a healthy democracy where our government is transparent, and leads the way by winning the support of the people before taking action.”

“We don’t want our country to buy into foreign agreements that cost us our jobs, freedoms, liberties or the product choices that matter to us.”

Green Party

The Green Party’s Trade and Foreign Investment Policy Summary is very strong:

We support fair trade, which is free trade that respects human rights and looks after the planet.

Fair trade upholds environmental standards that will protect and restore the biodiversity and biosecurity of our planet.

We seek trade solutions that promote sustainable forms of development and protect overseas workers from exploitation. Fair trade is a shared pathway towards greater global prosperity—one that doesn’t sacrifice our sovereignty to multinational giants.

Ownership of land in Aotearoa/ New Zealand is a privilege that should be for citizens and permanent residents only

We welcome new investment that creates jobs in sustainable enterprises.

We propose that all foreign investment proposals undergo aa National Interest Analysis.

Foreign investment must meet sustainability criteria, and needs to be closely monitored to avoid the expatriation of profits from our productive asset base.

The Green Party also have specific policy Points covering trade agreements:

  • All international treaties must be voted on in Parliament before being signed, must give full effect to our Treaty of Waitangi obligations, and must put the rights of peoples and governments before those of multinational company investors.

  • Uphold international labour and environmental agreements through an International Trading Organisation and regional trading agreements to replace the WTO).

Policy regarding sustainable production and trade:


  • A government commitment to ‘buy local’.

  • Reduce our dependence on imported goods, eg food we can grow here.

  • All goods and services produced or sold in New Zealand to meet quality and sustainability standards (eg energy and recycling standards).

  • Encourage fair trade with developing countries that support sustainable development.

  • Retain or impose tariffs, quotas or bans to stop unfair competition from unjust or unsustainable production (eg forced labour, unsustainable logging).

  • Oppose trade deregulation in public goods, services and utilities, and where desirable, roll back GATS commitments.

And investment safeguards:

  • Land ownership for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents only.

  • More stringent conditions on overseas investment.

  • A Code of Corporate Responsibility for all corporations in New Zealand.

Internet Party

From the Internet Party’s ‘Independence Policy’:

 It is unlikely that the TPPA will deliver net positive benefits to New Zealand. There is every possibility that there will be significant negative impacts from ‘beyond the border’ areas such as investment, competition, health, copyright, and labour laws. The Internet Party, in recognition of the current state of negotiations, will reset the parameters of New Zealand’s negotiating team to protect the country’s independence and sovereignty.

The Internet Party will immediately widen the access of New Zealand stakeholders to the maximum possible extent consistent with the commitments around secrecy already made to our negotiating partners. At the least, it will match access by US corporate and lobbying interests.

The Internet Party will commit to not using the executive power of Cabinet to ratify the TPPA without an extensive and open public debate about the final text of the agreement as well as usual Parliamentary processes. Objective expert analysis will be commissioned so that people get a thorough understanding of the benefits and costs, tangible and intangible, of the TPPA. If the benefits do not substantially outweigh the costs for New Zealand or compromise our independence, the Internet Party will not support ratification of the TPPA.

The Internet Party will move the power to ratify international treaties such as the TPPA from the executive to Parliament.”




Pining the Labour Party down on the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not as easy as it seems. As Jane Kelsey explains:

Labour is captive of a fundamental contradiction. So many of its policies would be threatened under a TPPA, especially by investor-state disputes. But anyone who heard David Shearer on Insight several weeks ago channel the same uncritical line as Phil Goff know that Labour’s old guard would reject a TPPA over their dead bodies.

Whichever party is in power, Goff and Shearer are likely to retain the crucial portfolios of overseas trade and foreign affairs. If in government, they will be as desperate as Groser to sign a deal. In opposition they would likely remain Labour’s members on the foreign affairs, defence and trade select committee that would consider any agreement.

On paper there are some very good Labour policies covering TPPA, in particuarly remit 35 of the 2012 Labour Party Conference covered TPPA:

THAT in light of the Labour Party’s strong commitment to both the benefits of international trade and New Zealand’s national sovereignty, and recognising the far-reaching implications for domestic policy of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, in which trade is only a small part, Labour will support signing such an agreement which:

a) Provides substantially increased access for our agriculture exports to the US market;

b) Does not undermine PHARMAC, raise the cost of medical treatments and medicines or threaten public health measures such as tobacco control;

c) Does not give overseas investors or suppliers any greater rights than domestic investors and suppliers, such as Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or reduce our ability to control overseas investment or finance;

d) Does not expand intellectual property rights and enforcement in excess of current law;

e) Does not weaken our public services, require privatisation, hinder reversal of privatisations, or increase the commercialisation of government organisations;

f) Does not reduce our flexibility to support local economic and industry development and encourage good employment and environmental practices;

g) Contains enforceable labour clauses requiring adherence to core International Labour Organisation conventions and preventing reduction of labour rights for trade or investment advantage;

h) Contains enforceable environmental clauses preventing reduction of environmental standards for trade or investment advantage;

i) Has general exceptions to protect human rights, the environment, the Treaty of Waitangi, and New Zealand’s economic and financial stability;

j) Had been negotiated with full public consultation including regular public releases of drafts of the text of the agreement, and ratification being conditional on a full social, environmental and economic impact assessment including public submissions.

In reality the personal politics of those ministers involved still plays a significant role. Accordingly the policy listed on their website underscores the importance of the party talking with one voice on the issue:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is a negotiation between the governments of New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, the USA, and Vietnam to potentially create a regional free trade agreement.

The claimed objectives of the TPPA are to “deepen economic ties between its diverse members by opening up trade in goods and services, boosting investment flows, and promoting closer links across a range of economic policy and regulatory issues.”

Many citizens of potential TPPA countries have been disturbed by apparent leaks of some parts of the draft TPPA text. The Labour Party agrees the leaks raise important questions around domestic issues.

New Zealand must not sacrifice cheaper medicines through Pharmac, or give up our sovereign right to regulate and legislate for our health, protection of our environment, in ICT and online security and privacy, or in areas including gambling, tobacco and alcohol.  We must preserve our democratic rights to regulate overseas corporations that operate here.

In Labour we stand for a strong economy with opportunities for all, where our exporters can create jobs for New Zealanders. The Petri study from the East-West Centre suggests the TPPA could potentially lead to export growth of over $5 billion a year, and the Parliamentary Library, based on this study, states that could lead to the creation of 22,000 Kiwi jobs. By contrast, Bertram and Terry have written a paper which claims that less than a quarter of the benefits in these initial studies will eventuate. It is clear we can’t decide whether the TPPA will hinder or help our economic wellbeing until we know what is in the final agreement.

Therefore we have called on the National Government to release the full text of the TPPA, at least two weeks before they intend to sign it.

New Zealanders should be allowed to have an informed and mature public debate about what is in our people’s interests.


  1. You are the largest Opposition party. Surely you’re getting backroom briefings about the TPPA?Some of our MPs have received short briefings from the Minister of Trade, Tim Groser. However the National Government have denied us the specific information we have sought and that we expect.Previous Governments have kept Oppositions reasonably informed about trade negotiations. We are disturbed at how the Key Government has destroyed this important constitutional convention.
  2. Why has Labour been silent on the TPPA?We haven’t.Labour Party conferences in both 2012 and 2013 passed remits about the TPPA.On 11 February this year, our leader David Cunliffe publicly called on the National Government to debate the TPPA text. Click here for details.
  3. Is your caucus divided on the TPPA?No, we are united.Labour MPs recognise there are potential risks as well as potential benefits in the TPPA, but we do not know what is in the text. That’s why the Government must release the text before it is signed, so Kiwis have a chance to decide for themselves what is in our people’s interests.

National MPs shut down health debate (12 Sept 2012) – Maryan Street, concern re health impact


Speech: China-US Relations – Implications for New Zealand (25 July 2012) – Phil Goff, expressing desire for Pacific-wide FTA, concern at some US demands (not mentioned)


Speech to NZ Pork Conference 2012 (17 July 2012) – Damien O’Connor, commenting on reducing subsidies and gaining market access to Canadian pork market for NZ producers, not bow to pressure lower health standards in reaching final agreement (PRRS concern)


Speech to NetHui 2012 (12 July 2012) – David Shearer, desire to advance exports of high tech and high value products


Government not Wikileaks should reveal TPP facts (14 Nov 2013) – Phil Goff, critical of secrecy and issues over IP and Pharmac




Mana’s foreign policy directly addresses TPPA and other similar agreements:

 Mana’s policy priorities are to:

…Build just trade and investment relationships

Terminate all current negotiations for free trade and investment agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Follow the precedent being set by other countries and re-negotiate or terminate investment provisions in all existing free trade and investment agreements.

Explore alternative models for international collaboration based on the economics of solidarity, starting with the South Pacific.

Require any foreign investment to satisfy a Te Tiriti o Waitangi impact assessment and approval from mana whenua.

Introduce a tax on financial speculation, called the ‘Hone Heke’ tax, to restrict speculation on the New Zealand dollar which makes investors rich while destabilizing our economy.

Maori Party

The Maori Party does not have any specific policy covering international trade and investment agreements. While they have been a close coalition party with National, TPPA has indeed been a point of contention between the parties. They supported the nationwide mobilisation against the TPPA which took place on 27 March 2014, and issued the following statement around that time.


The Maori Party opposes the TPPA.

Our goal is whanau, hapu and iwi reclaiming their rangatiratanga – their power to determine their own future, to maintain their living culture and shared heritage, their links with their ancestral landscapes and natural environments, their identity and status as tangata whenua in Aotearoa. The TPPA is taking us in the opposite direction.

Leaked drafts show it undermines our national sovereignty; it allows others to exploit our culture and art for private profit; it limits our government’s powers to protect our rights.

You cannot give informed consent to a secret deal, especially not one that undermines our rangatiratanga, and we join the people of Aotearoa and indigenous peoples around the world in opposing the TPPA.


The National Party are the most avidly obssessed pro-TPPA party in New Zealand, and among the most rabid advocates throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

On 8 October last year a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office outlined what they wanted to see in this agreement:

A final Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement must reflect our common vision to establish a comprehensive, next-generation model for addressing both new and traditional trade and investment issues, supporting the creation and retention of jobs and promoting economic development in our countries. The deepest and broadest possible liberalization of trade and investment will ensure the greatest benefits for countries’ large and small manufacturers, service providers, farmers, and ranchers, as well as workers, innovators, investors and consumers.

We see the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with its high ambition and pioneering standards for new trade disciplines, as a model for future trade agreements and a promising pathway to our APEC goal of building a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific. We are encouraged by the growing interest in this important negotiation and are engaging with other Asia-Pacific countries that express interest in the TPP regarding their possible future participation.

The ‘comprehensive’ model demanded by the National Party is comprehensive agricultural market access, so that we can increase our exports throughout the region. However recently the likelihood of being able to execute such a comprehensive agreement has waned. Japan and Australia’s recently-negotiated free trade agreement contains very little movement on agricultural market access. Recent statements from NZ Trade Minister Tim Groser have become more reserved, as Jane Kelsey described in the NZ Herald:

The problem for Groser is that any deal is likely to fall far below his “gold standard” for Japan and the US to totally remove all tariffs. Without that outcome, it is even harder for the Government to justify all the downsides of the deal.

The formal statement from the ministers used the same recycled rhetoric of “meaningful progress”, “narrowing remaining differences”, and “building momentum”. But there was a difference.

Words like pragmatism and flexibility were code for accepting that some countries with particular sensitivities cannot be pushed beyond their political comfort zone.

For New Zealand, that almost certainly means no significant new market access for dairy to Japan, the US or Canada.

Back in 2010, Wikileaks reported a warning from then chief negotiator Mark Sinclair that New Zealand needed to “manage expectations” of an “El Dorado” from the TPP.

Trade Minister Groser did the opposite, insisting that New Zealand required nothing less than comprehensive liberalisation – the rhetoric that Apec leaders had used in their declaration in November 2011.

Those chickens have now come home to roost. Groser is trying to reduce expectations and at the same time hold the high ground. His Government faces a growing backlash against the TPP here and demands for a full cost-benefit analysis before anything is signed. He must know that the figures won’t stack up, even if they are based on the standard economic massaging.

Expect more back-tracking from Groser in the run-up to elections.

New Zealand First

NZ First’s policy on foreign affairs and trade has good discussion around the benefits of trade liberalisation, stating that they ‘aim to win the export and employment stakes, not some artificial tariff removal race”. In particular:

New Zealand First will … [r]eview all current and future bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), including the Closer Economic Relations (CER) process, to improve tranparency and accountability and to ensure they are in New Zealand’s interest. We Will support FTAs that are demonstrably in New Zealand’s interests.

During the Brunei Round of negotiations last year NZ First leader Winston Peters challenged the Prime Minister to come clean on the TPPA:

In Parliament today Mr Peters asked John Key if his Trade Minister had told him if the secret pages of the TPPA contained clauses that allowed foreign companies to sue New Zealand if they felt disadvantaged by our laws.

“It is unfortunate the Prime Minister could not give any assurances today that giant US multinationals will not target us if they don’t like our laws dealing with consumer goods, foreign investment or other important issues.

“All Mr Key would say is that there might be ‘technical provisions’ in the agreement, which should make New Zealand taxpayers very afraid.

“If this deal is for the betterment of the New Zealand people, why is he keeping this deal secret from them?

United Future

United Future’s website spares one whole sentence to the question of trade, giving an answer that is totally unhelpful and full of contradiction:

“It is United Future policy to support free and fair trade and embrace free trade agreements and pacts where there is a reasonable opportunity for New Zealand to benefit.”