TPP Action Media Release Saturday 27 Feb 2016

In defence of Upper Hutt City Council’s adoption of TPPA Free Zone policy as a precaution to the imposition of the Trans Pacific Partnership.1 ‘Democracy is under attack by mainstream media’ – is the only conclusion that can be reached when one considers the response from Newstalk ZB talkback host Tim Fookes in his Friday morning 26 February radio show, where he rubbishes the considered view of the Upper Hutt City Councillors.

Upper Hutt City Council has had TPP under consideration since 2014 and along with 12 of New Zealand’s major councils, it adopted the TPP policy solution2 nine (9) votes to two (2) on the 9th April 2015.

How long has Tim Fookes been studying it?

That TPP policy solution established ‘in principle’ the outcomes New Zealand civil society said be met in any multilateral trade and investment treaty agreement, whether TPP, TiSA or any other. On Wednesday 24 February the Upper Hutt City Council voted seven (7) votes to four (4) at its Full Council meeting to adopt an eight (8) point policy resolution in respect to the TPP. The new policy requested due process to discover the full implications and to ensure that the New Zealand public is afforded an opportunity to give their informed consent.

One would think that’s reasonable in a democracy.

Clause 7 says “..Council is a TPPA free zone where the constraints imposed by the TPPA, and the changes to national and local legislation to make our area comply with TPPA requirements are not supported by the Upper Hutt City Council.”

This declaration is made as a precaution until all the requirements in the resolution are concluded satisfactorily. Whilst there were divergent views on the merits of the resolution all councillors who spoke offered praise to the representatives of the community who had presented to Council.
Councillor Steve Taylor who opposed the resolution, stated during his contributionto the debate, “I welcome the debate on the TPP and congratulate the community representatives for your quality presentations. This is what democracy is about.”
The policy asks that central government initiates a full public and parliamentary debate, and gain clear consent from the people, before proceeding with formal consideration of the TPP, including any further binding treaty action. Democracy in
practice!

The question needs to be asked, “Do we live in a democracy?”
The question could be asked of Tim Fookes3 of Newstalk ZB, “Tim, do you believe in democracy?”
Sure he promotes discussion on his radio show. Discussion is important in democracy. The question might then be asked, “What informs the discussion, facts or hearsay?”

Antony Maddock Upper Hutt resident, rang in to Tim’s radio show this morning to participate in the discussion. In the period Antony was on air, before Tim cut him off, the following exchange took place (paraphrased).
Antony, “It is ridiculous, the situation regarding Upper Hutt City Council. It was good to see a democratic decision. Because of the secrecy that surrounded the TPP during the years of negotiations, meant that people have been shut out. Now they
can see the actual text and read what it is about.”

Tim, “Oh so you agree with Council’s decision?”
Antony, “Most certainly, all the councillors agreed that the presentations were high quality and well informed. It was stated that this is what democracy is about.” Tim, “How would you know that their decision is a good one?”

Antony, “I was there at the Council meeting. I am a resident of Upper Hutt.”
Tim, “Look mate all free trade agreements are negotiated in confidence, for example our agreement with China. How will this impact on the Upper Hutt ratepayers?”
Antony, “The same way it will affect all communities and councils – it will affecteveryone. Just because we’ve done it in the past doesn’t make it right. It was kept secret all those years. A US negotiator stated early on in regards to the secrecy,
that every time we make the text public it gets stopped.”4

Tim, “Yes, but, how will it affect Upper Hutt.”
Antony, “Through the threat of ISDS – investor state dispute settlement, where transnational corporations can sue through off-shore tribunals, which will be placed above our government and legal system, which is rated in the top 6 in the world.”
Tim, “Yes but I have been told that the TPP is a good thing and the Council are making a poor decision.”
Antony, “There you go, you have been told.”
Tim, “Why would the Government set up legislation that works against us?”

Antony, “That’s a question for the Government to answer.”

Tim then carried on whilst cutting Antony off.

Tim later in the morning interviewed Upper Hutt City Councillor Hellen Swales and Mark Futter from the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce.5
Hellen reported that TPP has been before the Council for consideration since 2014, with Upper Hutt passing the TPP policy solution along with Wellington City, Hutt City, and Kapiti Coast District Councils in early 2015. It should be no surprise to Mr Futter.
Hellen stated, “On each occasion those Councils wrote the Minister of Trade and the Prime Minister seeking assurance that policy matters of concern would be protected. There was no response from the Government.”

Which brings to question the statement by the Minister for Trade Negotiations Todd McClay’s statement yesterday, “I am surprised that the council has not tried to be better informed.”6

The Minister and the Prime Minister were sufficiently motivated to release a media statement Thursday 25 February, which reiterated the line, “Not being in TPP would put the New Zealand economy and our businesses at a competitive disadvantage compared to other countries.”7

There’s no attempt to address the concerns raised by civil society who have studied the TPP and the history of trade and investment treaties and their impact on governments’ ability to regulate in the public interest. It’s not all roses. That’s why people are raising concern. The Upper Hutt Council promotes sustainable development on its website.

Resident Pat Van Berkel said, “Upper Hutt has a strong business community, and will continue to have a strong business community. It welcomes international corporations that respect the environment, respect the wellbeing of its people, and respect democratic process.”

Pat went on to say, “Investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses pose dangers to the ability of local government and central government to properly execute their functions for the benefit of ratepayers and citizens. The European Union’s Trade Commission opposes ISDS in their parallel Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US, proposing a formalised court for settling investment disputes, operating within the constraints of the rule of law, unlike investor state dispute settlement arbitration.”8

The basis of democracy is informed discourse directed toward obtaining the best possible outcome. The Government denies both, a free and frank discussion, and the ability of the people to give their formal consent. It appears that our Central Government does not like democracy. Is democracy itself the problem? The word democracy is drawn from Greek and means ‘power to the people.’9

So is New Zealand a democracy, where people are entitled to their informed opinion, or an autocratic regime? Mr. Tim Fookes what do you say? Perhaps read what the Upper Hutt City Council resolution states: THAT the Council:

  1. Notes the tabled information.
  2.  Reviews the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) text against the TPP Policy Solution adopted by councils representing a majority (60%) of the NZ population.
  3. Asks that Central Government initiates a full public and parliamentary debate before proceeding with formal consideration of the TPP, including any further binding treaty action.
  4. Asks that Central Government carry out independent human rights, health and environmental impact assessments of the potential effects of the TPP on the people and the land of New Zealand, as urged by the United Nations independent expert Alfred de Zayas, and make this information publicly available.
  5. Asks that Central Government consults with local government prior to any further action taken that might compromise the ability of local government to make decisions in the interests of our region, the people and their environment.
  6. Instructs the Council’s Mayor to write to the President of LGNZ, requesting that a local government evaluation, based on an independent analysis of the implications of the TPP for local government, and for the social, cultural, economic, environmental and health and wellbeing of communities, be undertaken as a basis of LGNZ input into parliamentary consideration, and that the evaluation report should be made publicly available and widely publicised.
  7. Declares until such time as there is robust debate and convincing protection of local government decision-making for the benefit of residents, citizens and ratepayers, and an analysis of how these issues will be addressed at local government level, Upper Hutt City Council is a TPPA free zone where the constraints imposed by the TPPA, and the changes to national and local legislation to make our area comply with TPPA requirements are not supported by the Upper Hutt City Council.
  8. Directs that this resolution and background information be circulated to all other councils and local and community boards around New Zealand and that it is sent immediately to the New Zealand Minister of Trade and Prime Minister.
    Ends

Greg Rzesniowiecki TPP Action email gregfullmoon013@gmail.com mobile 02102431632

Footnotes

  1. TPPA Free Zone decision taken at UHCC Wednesday 24 February. Council agenda: http://www.upperhuttcity.com/wpcontent/uploads/2016/02/Ordinary_Council_Agenda_240216.pdf see Policy committee report 10 Feb agenda item 8: http://www.upperhuttcity.com/wpcontent/uploads/2016/02/Policy_Committee_Minutes_100216.pdf
  2. TPP policy solution has been adopted by Auckland City, Nelson City Council, Tasman District Council, Christchurch City Council, Dunedin City Council, Wellington City Council, Hutt City Council, Upper Hutt City Council, Kapiti Coast District Council, Palmerston North City Council, Tauranga City Council and South Wairarapa District Council representing 60% of the population of New Zealand, full text here: http://www.actionstation.org.nz/tpp_policy_solution
  3. From Newstalk ZB’x website; Tim Fookes, 31, is a well-respected journalist and has had two stints as Chief Reporter for Newstalk ZB in Wellington. He has also worked in the Press Gallery in Parliament, as well as producing talkback programmes in Melbourne. Born in Wellington, Tim is an avid globetrotter, having lived and worked in China and the USA and travelled extensively through Asia and Europe: http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/wellington/tim-fookes-morning-show/
  4. Examples of this are, democracy stopped the Anti Countering Trade Agreement (ACTA): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Counterfeiting_Trade_Agreement and the earlier, Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multilateral_Agreement_on_Investment
  5. http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/wellington/tim-fookes-morning-show/audio/hellenswales-and-mark-futter-tpp-free-upper-hutt/
  6. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/77221956/upper-hutt-city-council-votes-to-make-the-citynew-zealands-first-tppa-free-zone
  7. https://www.beehive.govt.nz/feature/tpp
  8. It is only the US that are hold outs on behalf of their corporations: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-6059_en.htm NZ’s Government were aware of the European proposal when negotiating TPP and appear to have ignored it. We won’t know for another 4 years after the agreement is ratified as the background negotiating documents are sealed as a part of this secretive process. You can bet on the fact that the US corporations know what was proposed! Does NZ democracy mean, ‘the power of the transnational corporations drives our quasi-democracy?’
  9. Yanis Varoufakis, the former Minister of Finance for Greece, on the threat that extreme capitalism poses for democracy. Yanis says that it’s because you can be in politics today but not be in power — because real power now belongs to those who control the economy. He believes that the mega-rich and corporations are cannibalizing the political sphere, causing financial crisis. In this talk, hear his dream for a world in which capital and labour no longer struggle against each other, “one that is simultaneously libertarian, Marxist and Keynesian.” TED talk December 2015 Switzerland: https://www.socialeurope.eu/2016/01/why-capitalism-will-eat-democracy/