Hooton on TPP Free Trade Deal

wrote in the NBR:

It’s ghastly writing anything that could be construed as support for the University of Auckland’s Jane Kelsey but the radical leftist has a point when she argues the negotiating text for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should be released.

Her concerns are more the usual nonsense that a free trade agreement (FTA) could somehow stop the government from funding the Plunket Society. More real are concerns that, in their eagerness to do a deal, trade negotiators might undermine the true value of the TPP.

It’s a very warm day in hell when I agree with Jane Kelsey, but Matthew has a very valid point.

As the TPP’s founder, New Zealand should be absolutely staunch about who gets to join our club and the price of entry. There can be no compromise over agriculture, including dairy. If the US wants to enter our clubhouse, the terms are straightforward: ban all production and export subsidies, currently running at around $US20 billion a year for “farm income stabilisation” alone and eliminate all quantitative restrictions and tariffs. Only once those points have been conceded should New Zealand be prepared even to entertain the US’s complaints about intellectual property and competition policy.

A free trade deal which doesn’t require an end to agricultural protectionism (over time) isn’t worth doing. The US-Australia FTA was form over substance.

The fear is that it will be the other way around. New Zealand will agree to make immediate concessions, in exchange for the US agreeing to “work toward” the things we want, on an “agreed roadmap” but without any deadlines or even a timetable. Were that to happen, we’d no longer have the TPP as envisaged but just another Apec, doomed to drift and fail.

That is the fear. If we can get an end to agricultural protectionism, then yes we’ll have to concede in some other areas. But if we can’t get a “high quality” FTA, then we’re better leaving the TPP as it is, amongst existing parties.

The good news is that, on trade, Mr Key is absolutely staunch. When free-trade recalcitrant Japan asked about the club, Mr Key was unequivocal. If they were to join the talks, it would be on our terms or not at all. Agriculture had to be on the table and “sea anchors” weren’t wanted.

That was very welcome. I was amazed that a NZ PM was so blunt with Japan, but at least there is no room for misunderstanding.

To keep everyone honest, it couldn’t hurt for the negotiating text to be released. After all, a copy is held by the US State Department so it can only be a matter of time before it’s leaked to Wikileaks. Prof Kelsey, Julian Assange and Nicky Hager probably already have a copy. Better it’s released by the free-trade camp than by those three with their far-left spin.

I agree.

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