So New Zealand businesses are planning a fighting fund for advertising to tell us why the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is a really good idea. And with a level of condescension that only big business is capable of ANZCO chair Graeme Harrison is telling us why our concerns are so wrong.
Audrey Young reported in the Herald this morning:
New Zealand businesses are planning a “fighting fund” for a pro-TPP campaign once a deal is finished and in the public arena, Prime Minister John Key was told in Beijing yesterday.
ANZCO meat exporters chairman Sir Graeme Harrison revealed his plan in comments thanking the Prime Minister for a speech to an Apec New Zealand business delegation.
Sir Graeme made mention of the street protests against TPP around New Zealand on Saturday.
“What we saw in the weekend on TPP, we have to engage like it or not,” he said. “So we in business will be there to help and we will put our hands in our pocket as well for a fighting fund because it is really necessary.”
Sir Graeme said he was concerned that the public did not understand the benefits of TPP or the free trade agreement New Zealand had with China.
He said he wanted to put the facts on the table “rather than things that appeal to people’s gut instincts but aren’t backed by facts”.
It is interesting that business is planning the campaign after the deal has been concluded. If the public does not understand the benefits of TPP it is because of the absurd secrecy. This Government may be dealing away parts of our sovereignty and we do not even know it.
And I agree with Harrison that the facts should be put on the table. Right now. So we can see what our Government is negotiating on and what it is prepared to surrender.
The article highlights well the division on this issue. On one side are the corporates intending to use the TPPA to increase profitability and willing to contribute to a fund. On the other side are the people demanding the protection of our democracy as well as the preservation of our environmental protections and of our working rights but lacking in any financial resources.
The Labour Party has within caucus a diversity of views on the issue. But for me the resolution passed at the party conference in 2012 expresses the formal position well. The text is:
THAT in light of the Labour Party’s strong commitment to both the benefits of international trade and New Zealand’s national sovereignty, and recognising the far-reaching implications for domestic policy of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, in which trade is only a small part, Labour will support signing such an agreement only if it:
a) Provides substantially increased access for our agriculture exports to the US market;
b) Does not undermine PHARMAC, raise the cost of medical treatments and medicines or threaten public health measures such as tobacco control;
c) Does not give overseas investors or suppliers any greater rights than domestic investors and suppliers, such as Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or reduce our ability to control overseas investment or finance;
d) Does not expand intellectual property rights and enforcement in excess of current law;
e) Does not weaken our public services, require privatisation, hinder reversal of privatisations, or increase the commercialisation of government organisations;
f) Does not reduce our flexibility to support local economic and industry development and encourage good employment and environmental practices;
g) Contains enforceable labour clauses requiring adherence to core International Labour Organisation conventions and preventing reduction of labour rights for trade or investment advantage;
h) Contains enforceable environmental clauses preventing reduction of environmental standards for trade or investment advantage;
i) Has general exceptions to protect human rights, the environment, the Treaty of Waitangi, and New Zealand’s economic and financial stability;
j) Had been negotiated with full public consultation including regular public releases of drafts of the text of the agreement, and ratification being conditional on a full social, environmental and economic impact assessment including public submissions.
It seems to me to be likely that the the current TPPA if passed will fail a number of these conditions. Caucus should take the opportunity to stand up and oppose a measure that is clearly not in the country’s best interests.