“I completely understand where people are coming from on both sides of the debate,” says Joyce – speaking before the delay was announced – “but there are some wider trade-offs for the country around this stuff as well.” Overseas trade agreements require New Zealand to have such a law, although he thinks the Labour-led government, which passed the Act in its dying days, went too far.
Several people have made this argument, but it is overlooking a rather salient point – namely that we do not have an FTA with the United States – in fact we are not even in the queue to have one. And as far as I know, no current FTA or treaty requires us to have such a law.
So let us look at what will happen, if one day the US does sit down to negotiate a FTA with NZ. It is quite correct that the US will demand our laws reflect the demands of their intellectual property industry.
But think of the damage we have done to our negotiating ability, by already giving them everything they wanted – before we even are in the frame for an FTA.
If we ever do get to negotiate an FTA, this is what you want:
US Govt: Now we turn to your intellectual property laws. We want you to force ISPs to terminate Internet users who we think infringe copyright from our struggling Hollywood music and movie studios.
Tim Groser: Well that will be very unpopular back home. Our Government would get a lot of flak for that.
US Govt: But this is crucial. We insist that you have such laws.
Tim Groser: Well I can try selling this to Cabinet and Parliament, but I need some real wins to counter it.
US Govt: Like what.
Tim Groser: Well this will piss off around 80% of NZ – every NZers who uses the Internet. That is around 3 million people. Now you have only 1.2 million beef farmers and 1.5 million sheep farmers, so if you agree to all tariffs on beef and lamb disappearing by 2015, then I think I can sell this back home.
US Govt: Good try. We can’t do 2015, but how about lamb goes to zero tariff by 2018 and beef by 2023.
Tim Groser: I think we have a deal
You get the general idea. You don’t give away one of your strongest negotiating points, years in advance of even negotiating the free trade agreement. That is not in NZ’s national interest.