Hooton on Labour and TPP


John Key must be sorely tempted to put the Trans-Pacific Partnership () to a formal ratification vote in parliament. If the prime minister did so, he would split the ridiculous rabble that sits across from him.

Two former leaders, Phil Goff and David Shearer, would cross the floor to back the deal, along with Napier MP Stuart Nash, Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis and Tāmaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare, party insiders say. They alone would inherit Peter Fraser, Norman Kirk, David Lange and Helen Clark’s liberal-internationalist mantle.

There is no vote on ratification, but there will be a vote on legislation to implement parts of it.

For 20 years, New Zealand’s number one foreign policy goal has been a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the world’s largest economy, the US. If the TPP is ratified – which remains a big if – that NZ-US FTA has now been achieved, and FTAs with the world’s third and 11th largest economies, Japan and Canada, both hitherto highly protectionist, have been thrown into the bargain.

That’s three of the G7.

As a first tentative step in the long-term strategy, Dr Smith and Mrs Shipley launched negotiations in September 1999 for an FTA with Singapore, an agreement without economic significance but designed as a template for a wider 21st century deal.

The greatest share of political credit, though, lies with Ms Clark and her trade ministers Jim Sutton and Mr Goff.

It was the Clark government that concluded the Singapore deal, launched and completed the initial TPP with Singapore, Chile and Brunei and then drew in the US, Australia, Peru and Vietnam in 2008, following Ms Clark’s successful 2007 meeting with George W Bush.

The New Zealand origins of the deal are why Wellington had the diplomatic honour of being the depository and administrator of the treaty.

Worth remembering that. This is not a deal that the US approach NZ with. This was part of a 20 year strategy by both National and Labour Governments to get an FTA with the US.

To take one somewhat ironic example of the deal’s effects, given the music industry’s usual politics, the TPP’s copyright provisions mean the likes of Lorde, Tiki Taane, and SIX60 have ended up bigger winners from the TPP than Fonterra – which is surely fair enough given they actually bother to add value to their raw material and market it creatively offshore.

I don’t support the extension of the term of copyright to life plus 70 years, but did note on Twitter today that Lorde’s great grand children will be happy they can get money from her music in the year 2167!

The TPP also includes rules demanding higher labour and environmental standards, which are enforceable through ISDS, a first for a trade deal of this nature. Pharmac is left alone. Tobacco companies are excluded from being able to benefit from the deal. The Treaty of Waitangi is protected. So are marine mammals and even sharks.

If Labour vote against, they will be voting against an agreement that no member can weaken their environmental or labour laws and must introduce a minimum wage.

The union bosses, student politicians and former Alliance activists who now control Labour will have none of this.

Under Labour’s new rules that further empower its more fanatical grass-root members, the party has fallen under the spell of UK Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, unwavering anti-globalisation activist Jane Kelsey, Marxist twitter addicts and extreme-left bloggers at The Standard and The Daily Blog.

The party’s antics over the TPP this week suggest its missing-in-action leader, Mr Little, and its woeful finance spokesman, Grant Robertson, have never moved on from their time leading student rabble as presidents of the New Zealand University Students’ Association.

The student politicians have taken over the party!

Mr Little’s chief of staff is Matt McCarten, the former Alliance president who broke with Jim Anderton because the then deputy prime minister believed New Zealand should support the US in retaliating against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan for the September 11 attacks.

Insiders say that when Labour’s senior MPs and staff discuss policy and political positioning, the likely reaction of the left-wing Twitterati and blogsophere is given greater weight than that of any union, environmental group or social-policy advocates, let alone any industry association or business.

Surely this is not true?

The party’s hierarchy is now seriously considering actively campaigning against the TPP and making a manifesto commitment to activate the agreement’s withdrawal procedures should it become government.

It would be good for National if they do, but bad for NZ to have Labour go further left.

You read that right: today’s Labour hierarchy is seriously considering promising to withdraw from a trade deal with 40% of the world’s economy, including the US, Japan and Canada, for which Ms Clark, its greatest prime minister for a generation and its first ever to win three elections, deserves the lion’s share of the credit.

Have nothing to do with these people. Do not give them money. Do not help them with their policy development. Do not let them visit your business for cute photo-ops designed to suggest today’s Labour is interested in listening to mainstream people. For all the current government’s usual purposelessness and drift, the lunatics now running Labour’s asylum must never be let near power.


UPDATE: Labour is denying an internal rift on TPP, which means of course there is one!

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