Opinion – Jan Rivers

With the failure of the Maui TPPA round to make a deal the next round of TPPA negotiations is going to be much more difficult for the government domestically as well as internationally . Despite the secrecy of the last seven years of negotiations media coverage in the …

TPPA progress harder from now on

By Jan Rivers of Public Good Aotearoa New Zealand

With the failure of the Maui TPPA round to make a deal the next round of TPPA negotiations is going to be much more difficult for the government domestically as well as internationally. Despite the secrecy of the last seven years of negotiations media coverage in the last few weeks has laid bare to the NZ public some of the weaknesses of the government’s position.

Four downsides have become apparent.

1. The government has made it clear that it has left itself with few tools to prevent unlimited overseas sales of NZ homes through the TPPA and S. Korea agreements and now applying to China. (John Key’s claim that it was Labour’s fault is entirely specious – akin to saying “you gave me a knife and it’s your fault I cut off my own leg”.)

2. The promises, over many years, that Pharmac would be untouched by the TPPA have proven to be false. The current proposals on protections for biologic drugs would impact Pharmac’s ability to buy them. Prescription fees may not change but as tax payers we would be paying more or finding that modern drugs are out of reach of the health system.

3. The leaked TPPA chapter on State Owned Enterprises goes far further than anyone outside the negotiations had understood. That the government is signing up to an agreement where what constitutes an SOE is unclear and which could put the future of say, the NZ Superannuation Fund in doubt, would effectively knee-cap any future opportunity for SOE’s to have joint social and commercial objectives is a significant intrusion into future democratic freedoms.

4. The negotiations themselves have shown the weakness of New Zealand’s negotiating position and the claims that the TPPA would give market access for NZ primary produce have been shown to be an illusion. Our already open economy has left few bargaining chips so it has become clear that, after 7 years of negotiations, our Trade Minister is not even close to being able to sign a deal that would open the markets of TPPA countries for NZ dairy produce. Even so the bald facts of failure on this score are surely somewhat surprising

Two legal processes are in chain and will be in the news in coming weeks. Firstly the Waitangi Tribunal has agreed to hold an urgent hearing into a claim by Maori organisations and individuals from around NZ who have filed claims alleging the trade deal will jeopardise their Treaty rights.

Secondly a group of organisations including four of New Zealand’s most trusted organisations – Consumer NZ, Greenpeace, Oxfam and the Hospital Doctor’s Union have asked for a judicial hearing of the “blanket refusal to release any of the categories of information sought by University of Auckland Professor Jane Kelsey under an Official Information Act request earlier this year.”

The Trade Minister has recently attacked TPPA opponents as “breathless children” who “run off at the mouth” before the deal is done. When there has been wide coverage in the last weeks of Australia’s own free trade nightmare case with big tobacco which has cost $A50M of public money to get the case ready for the tribunal Groser’s attacking words appear as an unworldly disconnect with actual events related to the dangers of the Investor State Dispute System

Finally the government’s reputation as negotiators has come under fire on several other issues in recent months. From Sky City, Serco and charter schools to paying off a Saudi Arabian businessman the government is hardly demonstrating proficiency in looking after New Zealand’s best interests.

In addition to all of these issues opponents of the TPPA have a week of action from 8-15 August which will draw more attention to concerns about the agreement and will be calling on the government to step away it.

ENDS

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