Grrr, Catherine Beard, a director of ExportNZ, appears to be an ideological idiot who is too stupid or driven to realise her own degree of ignorance. Her puff piece for the TPP in the Herald this morning has nothing about the TPP. It just says “trust the negotiators”. Huh? They are the problem. They aren’t exporters and they don’t run businesses.
I’ve been involved in exporting from NZ for more than 35 years in everything from manufacturing to software. And I’ve worked on farms in my youth. I’ve always been a great supporter of free trade deals – right up until I started looking at the TPP. In my view, from the published details, the Trans Pacific Partnership deal is a restraint of trade deal.
Everything we currently know about this secretive deal indicates that we won’t get anything more than token agricultural access, that there is unlikely to be any significiant differences beyond what we have in our access to markets for other goods and services, and we’re likely to have some significiant reductions in the free trade we already have in NZ and outside.
Catherine Beard’s opinion piece has the flavour of it is that of an idiot mouthing religious maxims without any understanding of the ritual words mean.
Those questioning the value of free trade agreements could do well to examine the results achieved by New Zealand’s other agreements, and consider what we would miss out on if we were not included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
And so on for the entire article.
So where is the detail? We simply have no idea what we would miss out because virtually no information is available. The entire TPP process has been done in overwhelming secrecy with only a few bits of drafts released.
The bottom line is that there is no country that stands to benefit more from free trade deals than New Zealand.
Our major export categories and businesses of scale are from the agricultural sector, which is where you’ll also find the biggest tariffs and barriers to trade around the world.
And so far it looks like there is no change to those barriers apart from a few token ones. The biggest potential markets, in the US and Japan, appear likely to do at most a bilateral deal that can be what is possible to get through the diet and congress.
Those who raise doubts over the net benefits of free trade agreements in New Zealand tend to take a Chicken Little view of the world, and think of all the potential worst case scenarios. Sure, our negotiators have to hold firm to ensure the best outcomes for our economy overall in areas like intellectual property, investor state disputes mechanisms, environment and health and safety.
But they have proven competent at getting good results in the past, and can do so for the TPP as well or why would we sign the deal?
They did well because the deals were largely hammered out in public view. People who were interested pointed out problems and issues. Sure they made the whole thing messy with chicken little, but they also meant that every exporter, importer, and professional body knew what was happening long before the deal was signed. They put in their contributions. They had input and so the deals were pretty well balanced.
This deal doesn’t have any of that. “Interested parties” have been defined by the negotiators. Across the world those selected appear to have been very carefully selected from the free trade ideologues like Ms Beard appears to be or those who stand to gain. They are not shown much of the drafts. They are shown the bits that they are likely to agree with. It is in other words a propaganda exercise.
If and when disputes arise with our trading partners, they will need to be managed. All our free trade agreements include mechanisms for managing any disputes should they arise. This is what businesses around the world do every day of every week of every year. Governments can help us by removing barriers to trade.
Ah yes, and those mechanisms are? At this point they look like an excuse for international lawyers to drag cases out for years while extorting the maximum in fees to come to an arbitrary decision in a settlement extorted by the party with the deepest pockets. In short they are the bloody silly american frivolous litigation system. Perhaps Ms Beard should explain why we want that here?
The public and exporters, are unlikely to find out what is in this deal before it is signed by the executive. Sure it will go in front of parliament for a few days, but they can’t prevent the executive from signing it and then approving it.
Basically NZ should drop out of this deal and go back to what it was negotiating prior to the US getting excited about joining in. Bilateral and smaller multilateral deals that actually produce results and don’t have the degrees of obsessive secrecy that the TPP has been running under.