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TPP protests – Day 1

Written By: - Date published: 11:59 am, December 3rd, 2012 - 9 comments
Categories: activism, assets, class war, Economy, International, jobs, Privatisation, sustainability, telecommunications, trade, us politics, workers' rights - Tags:

Today a small group of protesters have been outside the entrance to Sky City Convention Centre, where a round of secret international TPP negotiations started to day. The big concerns about the TPP are the secrecy with which it is being developed, the potential to undermine NZ’s independence, the ability to make and enforce our won laws, and the amount of control being given over to powerful (US-based) multinational corporations.

On today’s protests, Stuff reports:

Around 20 placard-carrying protesters are outside the centre with police watching on.

A protest march through the city is scheduled for later today.

It’s a pity the march through the city wasn’t publicised more widely in advance.  (I have a prior unbreakable commitment this afternoon).

Others try to put the case for TPP.  The above Stuff article reports on the government’s (unconvincing) reassurances that they won’t negotiate anything that is not in NZ’s interest.

Two of the contentious areas are intellectual property and pharmaceuticals. Commentators have expressed concerns that New Zealand might have to sacrifice freedoms such as the right to parallel import trademarked goods, and make concessions over Pharmac’s bulk purchases of drugs and medical supplies.

But it is understood New Zealand does not expect to go into bat alone on these and other controversial aspects of the discussions.

Amongst the very unconvinced are Jane Kelsey, who writes:

However, the TPP is not simply, or even principally, about trade. There is a well-documented push from the US to secure extensive new rules that will serve the interests of their corporations and empower them to enforce those rules.

But it is increasingly clear that US politicians see the TPP as a vehicle to re-establish America’s ascendancy in the Asia-Pacific region to counter China’s emergence as a superpower.

Kelsey states that Key is seeking to talk down possibilities of NZ being caught between the TPP and the China-driven RCEP trade negotiations.  Kelsey concludes:

Whether or not you think that is desirable, it ignores both geopolitical realities and the divergent paradigms on which China and the US operate.

A serious risk is that governments participating in the TPP will sign up for strategic reasons to a text designed by and for the US to serve its commercial and foreign-policy interests. As a result, New Zealand and Australia, alongside Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, who are members of Asean, will become caught up in a new Cold War, conducted through the proxy vehicle of economic integration agreements.

Large numbers of Kiwis are also unhappy with the secrecy of the TPP. This makes it impossible for ordinary people to judge how good it will be for the country. A Consumerlink, mid-November poll shows,

65% of New Zealanders think the Government should make the contents of the agreement public before the negotiations are completed and the agreement is signed, 14% do not mind if this does not happen, and 21% have no opinion.

[h/t: Draco T Dastard]

Today Canada will be joining the negotiations for the first time. Canadian consultant Peter Clark is arriving to attend tomorrow, and is underwhelmed by what has been achieved so far, and what may be achieved in the future.

The TPP negotiations are based on a shaky foundation. Congress has not granted Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for the TPP.19 Without TPA, trade agreement negotiations are fraught with risk and uncertainty. It is folly.

Without TPA, the TPP negotiations are a crapshoot for other countries. Without TPA, all Trans-Pacific partners are exposed to the virtual certainty of having to re-negotiate with Congress a hard fought, done deal.

The TPP is nowhere near finished. On several important issues, it appears to be stuck in neutral. It will, like all other free trade negotiations, be about hard fought exclusions. In Asia, there are alternatives to the TPP for ASEAN members. The RCEP will be much more user friendly and flexible. This will feed dissent and objections to U.S. demands.

More information about the protests this week on the GPJA  blog, including [edited to save space – check blog for full version]:

3 Dec Auckland: Street theatre and rally at opening of negotiation round, 8.00 am, Entrance to Skycity casino, Federal St….

Public meeting hosted by the Fabian Society. Speakers: Lori Wallach (from US watchdog Public Citizen) and Jane Kelsey. 6.30 pm, Old Government House lecture theatre, University of Auckland, Auckland

4 Dec Wellington midday. 12noon, Midland Park, Lambton Quay.

1-8 Dec Auckland. ‘Having fun with TPP’ Cartoon exhibition, BizDojo.Co.Space, Karangahape Road, Auckland….

NB a mobile billboard featuring one of the winning cartoons and advertising the Dec 8 rally will be driving around Auckland from 4-12 December. … Details tba, contact Stephen Parry 021 039 0284.

7 December Auckland. [Related, but not  a TTPA event:]… Aotearoa Is Not For Sale: The Big Push. March against Asset Sales, meeting 6pm at Britomart. …

8 Dec Auckland: Major rally and presentation of Avaaz petition on TPP …, meeting at Aotea Square at 2pm, marching to entrance of Skycity casino, Federal St. ..

TPPA? No way! Awareness raising concert at St Kevin’s arcade, 6-9pm.

10 Dec Auckland “Trading away our future: TPPA and the Environment”, … Refreshments provided. 5.30 at Green Party offices, 17 Mercury Lane, Newton. http://www.facebook.com/events/562836617066132/

9 comments on “TPP protests – Day 1 ”

  1. Wayne 1

    Karol,

    The fact that President Obama made TPP such a priority at EAS shows the level of effort the US is putting into it. Clearly the US will have to accommodate other nations concerns, but obviously everyone has to get something out of the negotiations that they can value, or else the deal won’t succeed.

    I think the US has put too much into TPP to see it fail. Congress would think very carefully about rejecting a sucessfully concluded TPP. The Republicans in the lower House support free trade. The Democrats in the Senate support their President.

    NZ as the depository of TPP and as host of these talks also has a lot vested in their success. And that would apply for both National and Labour. A NZ Govt that rejected a deal for which they were depository would destroy our credibility among the Asia Pacific for many years to come. We simply would not be trusted.

    The ASEAN nations with their parallel project of RCEP also do not want to see China excluded. But most of them are also in TPP. Same for NZ. So ASEAN sees that both deals need to succeed, to keep the balance between China and the US.

    Both China and the US are Asia Pacific nations; they aint going anywhere. And none of the other nations in the region are going to go out of their way to unnecessairly antagonise them. In fact the ASEAN nations see themselves as the bridge. They have many initiatives designed to bring China and the US into regional dialogue. EAS, ARF and ADMM+ are just three.

    Logically when both TPP and RCEP are complete, they are likely to merge as the much vaunted APEC free trade pact. But TPP is at least 3 to 5 years ahead of RCEP.

    So while the Left (but not Labour) might rail against TPP, I do not think Jane Kelsey et al will have much influence on Tim Groser and the Govt (or on David Shearer).

    • thatguynz 1.1

      Except for the minor problem that TPPA is a trade agreement second, not first.  I do of course agree that neither Groser and National nor Labour have any interest whatsoever in listening to any opposition to it.  And make no mistake, based on what has been leaked so far this is one of the biggest present threats to NZ.

    • lprent 1.2

      Problem is that from the little that is known about TPPA positions it looks like it could take a decade or more for any benefits to flow through from the US in the terms of opening of access for farm produce. And that assumes that the US legislature is cooperative, which hasn’t exactly been noticeable over the trade agreements in the last few decades.

      Whereas the likely lousy effects on our burgeoning export tech industry will probably be a whole lot faster, and enforced by unaccountable kangaroo courts with unfathomable appointment procedures and no appeal.

      So remind me – why exactly is this a “trade” treaty that we are engaged in, compared to something like a political treaty of economic conquest – which is more what it seems to resemble? So far there appears to be little or no trade rationale for NZ to be engaged in this in a world where we don’t appear to have much of a problem selling our wares, just a problem in getting further up the processing value chain.

      If I had to guess this looks more like a opportunity to open up more international boards for ex-politicians and diplomats to ease into retirement with. So far that seems to be the only likely benefit for actual exporting NZ businesses.

      BTW: I replied to your yesterday sideline comment on this – http://thestandard.org.nz/tpp-negotiations-auckland-next-week/comment-page-1/#comment-557747

    • Draco T Bastard 1.3

      Just because a lot of self-important twits have put a lot into it doesn’t mean that we should sign it. Especially considering that the only people who have had a say in it are actually the corporations and not the people.

  2. PlanetOrphan 2

    Great post Karol, we should ditch the TPP completely until we are sure of our needs when it comes to regulation of the local economy.

    We Just need to follow the USA’s example, protect the local economy otherwise all the money bleeds out into the wilderness.

  3. karol 3

    Jane Kelsey on the unprecedented lock-out of stakeholders from Sky City TPP negotiating venue today.  It basically means that those with criticisms of TPP don’t get any opportunity to interact with the international negotiators.

    “We turned up this morning and found we are locked out of the entire Sky City Convention Centre for all 10 days except the so-called stakeholder day on Friday,” according to Professor Jane Kelsey, who has attended six previous rounds.  …

    “It is patently obvious that our government is actively attempting to block us from having private interactions with negotiators who have their own concerns or want more information in areas they lack expertise, or are simply polite enough to respond to requests for meetings.”
     
    “The previous round held in New Zealand in December 2010 was widely criticised for its secrecy – including by journalists trying to find out what is happening. It looks positively transparent when compared to what we are now confronting, which is hugely depressing and totally unacceptable.” 

    So, the secretive negotiations are becoming even more secret 

  4. Murray Olsen 4

    As far as I can see, the TPPA formalises governments as the enforcement arm of the corporations. Key and co, as well as the likes of Mallard and Jones, might like the idea of cushy seats on various boards as a result of turning Aotearoa into a sweatshop/casino/private prison, but I can’t see anything in it for the rest of us. It’s so bad that I can only see signing or supporting it as acts of treason.

  5. Rosemarie 5

    Thankyou Karol for the info..very enlightening

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