Vigilance Needed On Trade Talks

Those people who are opposed to the agreement want access to the texts so they can blow it apart. Trade Minister Tim Groser

Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is everybody’s business

 By Roger Childs

TPP slogansThe TPP talks have been going on for many months, in secret. The Pacific Rim discussions which involve New Zealand and a dozen other countries, are part of trade negotiations going on around the world, led by the Americans and the European Union. However, key drivers of the process are the thousands of ubiquitous corporations.

Whether agreement will be reached is debatable, however once signed the TPP could well mean that foreign interests have a big say how our economy is run and be able to limit the government’s ability to regulate.

To raise awareness of the possible implications of TPP, Motueka activist, Greg Rzeniowiecki, is travelling around the country to get councils to adopt a 12 point statement. This was first passed by the Auckland City Council in 2012, however the Kapiti Coast District Council (KCDC), has not come on board yet.

Over the last week Greg and other concerned people have been speaking at meetings on the Kapiti Coast.

KIN will be publishing a series of articles on the many issues involved in the TPP talks. The discussions involve everything from trade and investment to intellectual property and regulation. This first article is a summary of the key aspects of Greg’s talk.

What TPP could mean for New Zealand

Tim GrosserTrade Minister Tim Groser has talked of TPP bringing about the internationalization of our economy? But do we want or need that? At the recent Kapiti meetings, Greg Rzeniowiecki emphasized that TPP has fishhooks which could mean more foreign control over our economy and society.

He pointed out that TPP discussions are based around has six key elements.

Intellectual Property: Foreign companies want to extend the age of copyright and have longer patents. What they want could threaten how much you can photocopy at your local library.

Investment: The corporations want to be able to invest with less regulation and have the ability to sue governments, if necessary, if they feel their rights are infringed. The recent case of the big tobacco company Philip Morris Asia suing the Australian government over their 2011 plain packaging legislation, is a salutary lesson.

corporationsServices: In areas such as construction, retail, education and health it might be hard to regulate or restrain corporation activity.

State-owned Enterprises: SOEs can include schools, hospitals and facilities like the Kapiti Aquatic Centre. TPP might restrict the access of local bodies to government raised capital and the favouring of local firms in community projects could be challenged by corporations.

Transparency and Regulatory Coherence: TPP would insist on the same standards for every country. It is highly likely that our government’s ability to regulate would be severely restricted. People are very familiar with what banks have got away with in the past in the days of so-called self regulation.

Government Procurement: Corporations could challenge national and local government policies on awarding contracts, buying goods and setting standards. It could also limit flexibility in determining wages and working conditions.

The time for action is now before it is signed

Jane KelseyWhat could happen, according to Jane Kelsey, is that: The US… claims the right to decide what a country’s obligations are under a trade and investment agreement. This could mean rewriting a country’s legislation in the interests of overseas corporations!

The talks are being held in secret which is a sure sign there is plenty to hide. If TPP was to be signed by our government it would become policy and the necessary laws would be passed.

There would be lip service paid to democracy:

~ proposals going to a select committee

~ public submissions

~ debate in parliament

~ cabinet decision

~ vote in parliament.

TPPHowever, basically signing would mean a fait accompli.

Greg Rzeniowiecki and his supporters are travelling the country to get councils to support a 12 point set of proposals designed to put pressure on central government to only sign a “trade” agreement which protects New Zealand’s best interests.

Several councils have adopted the plan including some big players: Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Nelson. KCDC needs to  get on board.

More on the 12 points in a later article.