David Clark | Issue 21

David Clark | Issue 21

TPPA: Labourís Thoughts

As more information has leaked about the highly secretive draft Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, I’ve become more concerned about just what the government wants to sign us up for. Don’t get me wrong, Labour supports free trade. That’s why we signed a free trade agreement with China in 2008. And we consider it important to be at the negotiating table when access to 40 percent of global trade is discussed. 

New Zealand is a trading nation. Our country would be in a pretty poor state if we stopped receiving payment for our dairy produce or tourism. With these export earnings, we buy iPhones and televisions. Even if I were willing to give up technology, I’d struggle without bananas and coffee. 

Given the politics of the situation, it would be easy to adopt a populist approach that opposed any trade deal regardless of its merits — particularly one that hasn’t been exposed to public scrutiny. Or alternatively to support all trade, full-stop. But reality is more complex than that: there are good trade deals, and bad trade deals. Everyone knows the pros and cons of trade deals aren’t easily captured by a chant at a political rally — important though they are.

Alarmingly, however, leaked TPPA negotiating documents suggest that the government may be willing to trade away sovereignty in a way Kiwis would baulk at if they knew. Because the TPPA is more than just a trade agreement, and because of the secrecy around the deal, Labour has sought to be crystal clear on the principles we believe must be upheld before we will lend any support to the deal.

Accordingly, Labour will not support the TPPA unless we are confident it is in New Zealand’s interests and will not undermine our sovereignty. This means Pharmac must be protected; Corporations cannot successfully sue the government for regulating in the public interest; New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of land and housing to non-resident foreign buyers; the Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld; Meaningful gains are made for our farmers in tariff reductions and market access 

Labour is clear on this issue: if these bottom lines are not met, we will not support the progress of the TPPA. Going by the emails I’ve received, and conversations I’ve had around campus, this clarity is appreciated.

This article first appeared in Issue 21, 2015.
Posted 2:16pm Sunday 30th August 2015 by David Clark.