Smellie on TPP

February 16th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Patrick Smellie writes 10 things he says opponents don’t want you to grasp:

  1. The secrecy surrounding TPP negotiations is typical of any such exercise.
  2. The bogey of corporations being able to sue governments is not only overblown, but corporations can do that now, without a TPP.
  3. Corporations might try to sue but they’ll be whistling if the government is acting in the public interest.
  4. United States corporate interests are obviously among those seeking influence on the TPP agenda, but that doesn’t mean the US Senate and Congress are on board.
  5. US politicians know less about what’s in the TPP negotiating documents than US corporate lobbies.
  6. No-one knows what the TPP could be worth to the New Zealand economy
  7. The US on the backfoot on many of the most contentious issues
  8. This is the end of Pharmac. Balderdash.
  9. The deal will be done behind closed doors. It can’t be. Every Parliament of every country involved will have to ratify any deal signed by leaders.
  10. There’s no guarantee TPP will come in to land.

It is quite legitimate to oppose some of the things that the US (especially) is asking for in the TPP, I am strongly opposed to many of their proposals for the intellectual property chapter. But there is a difference between opposing some of what the US is asking for, and demonising the TPP negotiations as a whole.

makes a similiar point in his Cunliffe’s Four Fails:

Mr Cunliffe’s fourth fail was over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) about which Labour has been fully briefed by the government, through Mr Goff.

Pandering to the Greens, Labour’s radicalised membership and Auckland anti-globalisation activist Jane Kelsey, Mr Cunliffe called for the TPP negotiating text to be released.

The good news is that Mr Cunliffe accepts this can’t happen while negotiations are under way and that the text should remain secret until it is finalised.

He says, however, it should be released two weeks before it is “signed.”

It is difficult to know what Mr Cunliffe – who claims, implausibly, to be “a former New Zealand trade negotiator who worked on the GATT negotiations and bilateral trade agreements” and to have “represented the New Zealand dairy industry overseas in many markets and on many occasions” – even means.

He cannot seriously be proposing that New Zealand unilaterally release the text without the agreement of the other parties.  That would see New Zealand excluded from all further international negotiations on any topic.

He must also know there is no two-week gap between a treaty being “finalised” and it being “signed.”  At trade minister level, they are the same thing.

Trade agreements are negotiated under the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.  When trade ministers do reach agreement, there is seldom even a formal signing ceremony.  Instead, the agreed text is released as part of a communiqué and each country then decides if and when it will ratify it.

For the TPP, the US Congress has not granted President Obama fast-track negotiating authority, reserving the right to re-litigate each clause.  The text will be debated in detail in our parliament and media.  While the cabinet holds the formal ratification power, Parliament retains the right to legislate over the top of it.

 It could be a long time – even years, if other TPP countries have difficulty ratifying the deal – between a final TPP text being publicly released by trade ministers and it ever being finalised and ratified to come into force.

If he really ever were a trade negotiator, Mr Cunliffe would surely know this.

Matthew is a former press secretary to a Minister of Trade Negotiations.

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13 Responses to “Smellie on TPP”

  1. Graeme Edgeler (3,274 comments) says:

    The deal will be done behind closed doors. It can’t be. Every Parliament of every country involved will have to ratify any deal signed by leaders.

    The New Zealand Parliament is not involved in the ratification of treaties. In New Zealand treaties are ratified by the Executive.

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  2. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Let’s face it, Cunliffe and his troupe are all failures, along with the envious self-entitled supporters they attract.

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  3. Paulus (2,546 comments) says:

    A usual unless there is a distinct advantage to the US then it is a no go.
    Anybody trying to compete with the US is UnAmerican.
    I did once work for a large US group – their motto is “if someone hit you first it is unfair practice – unless they do the first hit”.
    Then it is fair practice.

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  4. thedavincimode (6,582 comments) says:

    The wonderful thing about Cunners is that he seems to completely lack any self-awareness at all. Contrast him with Goof and the fish-man who at least had sufficient self-awareness to know they had fucked up because it clearly affected their confidence.

    Every fuckup Cunners makes is like water off a duck’s back, because such is his supreme self-confidence and sense of importance, these fuckups, if he even notices them at all, seem to be regarded by him as minor or irrelevance glitches that are either no fault of his own or merely a natural consequence of treading the path to greatness.

    In combination with his patronising style, lack of humility and faux sincerity and gravitas, it makes him far funnier to observe than Goof and the fish-man – almost a comedic figure. He is truly the Inspector Clouseau of NZ politics.

    No doubt this explains why the people who have to deal with him on a daily basis – his caucus and the media – appear to dislike him so much. I guess this is no surprise in a feral liebour caucus that has no leadership and is consumed by self – interest, but it is interesting that the media have been so willing to climb into him far earlier and with more vigour than they did with Klerk, Goof and the fish-man.

    All I can say is: “keep up the good work Cunners”. Given the state of TV nowadays, live wouldn’t have been anywhere near as amusing without his efforts or those of his two predecessors.

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  5. NK (1,104 comments) says:

    Yeah, release it now. Nah, release it two weeks before it’s signed.

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  6. flipper (3,774 comments) says:

    It is time GE sent back to academia (if he ever departed).

    Groser, Key et al have already said that legislation will be required. Dont think that is within the b/shit Cabinet manual. BUT…. If you want to dance on a pin…..

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  7. Matthew Hooton (124 comments) says:

    Graeme, you are wrong in this case. Parliament is involved in treaty ratification: see http://cabinetmanual.cabinetoffice.govt.nz/7.112

    And while cabinet is the final ratification body:
    1) parliament could legislate to prevent or overall the cabinet from ratifying a treaty, and
    2) parliament must legislate to put most treaty commitments into effect (even when treaty commitments can be implemented by the executive, parliament could overrule these actions).

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  8. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    Seems to me Smellie is leaping on to the strawman strategy. Several of his points “TPP opponents don’t want you to grasp” are points TPP opponents have been making loud and clear.

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  9. wikiriwhis business (3,883 comments) says:

    The TPP is not so much about trade but about state surveillance. 9/10′s in fact. DEmocracy will basically be gone once it is signed and ratified which is why it is so secret. If we can’t take notice of the financial international chaos happening around us we won’t understand the politicians vested in teh TPP are hoping to perpetuate that chaos here.

    A direct result of the US Vice Presidents public announcement of the new World Order on You Tube made last year

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  10. Huevon (206 comments) says:

    The remark about corporations suing governments needs some clarification (and I can give it, because I went to Law School!!)

    Only NZ’s free trade agreement with the South East Asian economies gives foreign investors the right to sue host governments who interfere or expropriate investments. None of NZ’s other FTAs give these rights (from memory, I could be wrong). So to say corporations can already sue NZ, well, only if they are from SEA. It certainly isn’t true for all cases.

    I think that the Right has been a little too enthusiastic in its support for these kinds of “investor-state dispute resolution” provisions. They are very common internationally, but only in trade and investment treaties between developed countries and Eastern Europe, Latin America, generally lesser developed countries with unreliable legal systems. Generally these provisions weren’t required for trade and investment between developed economies because those countries already protected property rights, had independent judiciaries, etc, etc.

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  11. Fentex (902 comments) says:

    No-one knows what the TPP could be worth to the New Zealand economy

    I’m confused, is someone arguing this a point in it’s favour? That doesn’t seem logical. Treaties such as this involve negotiation and trade off, not having a good idea of what the value of was negotiated with and for is no recommendation for a treaty.

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  12. Graeme Edgeler (3,274 comments) says:

    Graeme, you are wrong in this case. Parliament is involved in treaty ratification:

    That’s fair. My use of the word “involved” goes beyond what is justified. I maintain that the claim in point 9 is wrong, however. Parliament has involvement, but it does not ratify treaties in New Zealand.

    Certainly, Parliament could pass a law giving itself the power to ratify some or all treaties, or forbidding the executive from ratifying a treaty, but it hasn’t done that yet, and seems unlikely to do that now, or for the foreseeable future.

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  13. Fentex (902 comments) says:

    My biggest problem with the TPP, apart from it highlighting the questionable ethics of closed and protected discussions from outside observation (of which it is irrelevant if it is typical or not of international negotiation – multiplying wrongs does not make them rights) is it’s emphasis on questionable IP rights.

    I have a lot of problem with existing IP legislation and little ambition for any of it to be extended and certainly no wish at all for small nations (such as NZ) to be put at disadvantage by them. Anything that muddles the right of people to utilise their own property, and profit from their own labours, through the inventing of rights over their actions by legal manoeuvres rather than competition in markets is questionable.

    We have enough trouble with governments making the best of intentioned rules about what we may or may do when they’re accountable in elections we shouldn’t invite more by being careless about what authority we give individuals with cash to spend in courts over others.

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