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Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Iceberg ahead: Labour and the new TPPA agreement

I got a funny feeling this morning when I read that the TPPA, now renamed the CPTPPA (with the C & P meaning “Comprehensive and Progressive”, was soon to be signed by NZ and 10 other nations in the wake of the US pulling out and previous problems to make it work without them.

However the “funny feeling” had a lot less to do with the TPPA itself and more to do with the fact that the Greens still oppose this agreement, the opinion of NZ First was currently unknown and National supported it.

Don’t get me wrong I am still not sold on the TPPA (nor are others in the blogsphere) but many of the changes, post US exit, seem to have softened the worst aspects like the intellectual property, pharmaceutical and the odious Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses, that have been amended to take out the sections which seemed hell bent overriding state sovereignty at corporate behest (driven it appears by the heavily infiltrated US trade delegation) and have made it a lot more palatable to the public: as trade agreements go.

No, whats giving me this strange sensation is the thought that if the Greens and NZ First oppose the TPPA and then Labour goes with National and gets it passed we may be faced with the first real rift in the relationship between the three coalition partners.

Of course, if Labour has been smart, all of this will have been thrashed out in the various parties’ coalition agreements, where somewhere in the depths of those documents there are certain clauses setting out how this situation will be handled and who will bow to whom.

So far so good but as the Greens are already opposed and it would be hard to imagine NZ First getting behind it given their previous comments we come to the crux of this potential issue because the TPPA being good or bad will pale into insignificance if this becomes a bone of contention between the three parties currently making up our government.

But wait, according to former Trade Minister Todd McLay Winston will “toe the line” and dance to Jacinda’s tune when it comes time to vote, perhaps as a price for getting to be deputy PM as the article seems to insinuate.

And maybe that’s why the NZ First/Labour coalition agreement document is secret as while Winston might be willing to stand behind Jacinda will the remainder of the party and its supporters be behind the CPTPPA?

In sports I think this is what they call “the moment of truth” where the star quarterback is under pressure, about to be sacked by some thuggish looking linesmen and has to get the game winning throw off in time, and with accuracy, to the receiver, to make the touch down, win the game and get back his childhood sweetheart.

Meanwhile over in National, now wallowing in opposition, you can almost smell the grins emanating as this has win/win written all over it for the party.

Think about it: National always wanted the TPPA to go through, even in its most evil form, but will obviously settle for getting it through in a diluted state, so it can please its foreign and domestic backers, BUT if this does not go through it’s a rather convenient stick, for them,with which to beat Labour and Jacinda around the head with for the rest of the term.

So here is the situation and what needs to be watched: is the mood of Winston, NZ First and its supporters, amenable to being bent over and made to think of Aotearoa while the TPPA gets signed and then deal with the potential fallout in a political climate where the mood is increasingly become anti-free trade*, anti-foreign ownership and where economic nationalism has been part of Winston’s stock in trade for as long as we can remember?

And while we are speculating, has Labour read the mood of its voter base well enough when a big part of what got them elected was the fact that “they were not National”? It’s been all honeymoon period and baby showers for Labour since October last year but with parliament set to convene on February 13 and the business of government kicking back off after the summer hols this is a potential first test of how resilient our three headed government actually is.

It’s also worth remembering, as has been pointed out, that Labour was for the TPPA in 2008, opposed it for the majority of the National government, flip flopped on it while under Andrew Little before now swinging back to being in support of it; albeit with amendments to its worst clauses, and with the housing hernia starting to go bad (but no bust as of yet) and business confidence slumping while inequality in NZ rises, a thing like the TPPA is not a done and dusted matter just because someone says its so.

The potential for backlash here is real and, as noted above; National would like nothing more than to see Labour get knocked back on this matter, even as they give them a helping hand by agreeing to support them in passing it.

*-Or what passes for free trade but is really anything but free


  1. Interesting that some things never change, here we have a brand new government and they lumber the people of new zealand with the same BS. I think that miss ardern is no better then smelly JK. all tared with the same brush. This must be the worst deal for new zealanders as we have no idea what the deal is all about.

    1. Hi Texas:

      I think that's the core problem with the TPPA is that almost no one can actually point to any material gain to their lives from any trade agreement NZ has ever been in and as such governments and PMs have trouble selling it.

      Labours flip flopping on the issue has not helped though.

  2. I confess to a degree of ignorance on the (CP)TPPA. The strongest argument against seems to be that it will undermine "New Zealand" sovereignty, and my reaction to that is to suggest that since New Zealand cannot claim to be an independent sovereign state (formally in allegiance to the British crown, practically to international capital) the sovereignty issue is academic in the present circumstances and can only be resolved through revolution. That means if the people of Aotearoa want sovereign authority for themselves, they will have to earn it by overthrowing the colonial regime. They don't have effective sovereign power at present, it won't be given to them on a plate by the British or global capital, and therefore it has little to do with the TPPA. What interests me more is the question of who is in favour of the TPPA, and why. By endorsing the TPPA Labour is yielding to certain interests. Presumably not national capitalists (such as remain after the ravages of the 5th Labour government) in general, or the unions. Is this being driven by a very few large players, say the dairy industry? Or is it a purely ideological move divorced from any consideration of actual economic and social consequence? Any comment on that?

    1. Short version Geoff is that few kiwis seem to prosper individually form any trade agreement we have but some industries do.

      The TPPA in its new form is less sovereignty invasive than it was before when the US was planning to ram their concessions down our throat at Corporate US behest and now we and the other nations can basically enact something similar to APEC.

      Make of that what you will.

      Ideologically I have herd and read comments that this shows Labour NZ is still running with the "Third way" ala Tony Blair et al which means that for Labour its still business as usual. I'm not so sure I agree with that but i can see why people do think that way and I am waiting and seeing if Labour is all talk on fixing NZ and rolling back neo-liberalisim or Jacinda and Co are just talking the talk to get votes and people on side.