News of today’s leak of the TPPA’s weak environmental text reminded me how John Key gave Barack Obama his third putt in their Hawaii golf photo-op. Golfers call it a “gimme,” usually only given for very short putts. A White House press report at the time said the two leaders “reaffirmed our continued work together to deepen our trade relationship, enhance regional security, and support the democratic values that the United States and New Zealand share.”
So we can be certain that the TPPA was discussed. Key’s invitation to golf and talk with Obama comes after the Singapore round of negotiations in December, where the US adopted very heavy-handed negotiating tactics, giving very few concessions, and before the next meeting of Ministers in January.
John Key has previously been Barack Obama’s stalking horse, chairing the TPPA discussions in Bali when Obama was delayed in the US by the budget stand-off, and reported back to Obama. I have absolutely no doubt that as principals in the TPPA negotiation the leaders will have discussed bottom lines. Key will have made some concessions, but with his record of accommodating American interest one can only hope he will not turn out to have given too much away on Pharmac and other crucial issues and become New Zealand’s Judas Goat. It certainly looked like Obama was in the driving seat on the golf course.
But as the negotiations are conducted in secret, we will not know the answer till its all over. It is all the more imperative that the negotiating documents are released; citizens have arguably more interest in the outcomes than do governments. Hopefully Key will questioned more closely by our media when he returns from Hawaii than was the case in the photo-op.