NZ Herald on TPP

The editorial:

Trade is these days recognised as a universal benefit even if countries still make heavy weather of bargaining for it.

I wish that was true. NZ First and Greens oppose almost all trade deals, and elements within Labour are anti-trade also.

It is important that countries signing up to an investment treaty indicate at the outset the sort of health and environmental regulation they will uphold. John Key reaffirmed as recently as last week that New Zealand will not give up its public medical purchasing system, Pharmac, under pressure from US pharmaceutical manufacturers. Pharmac was not the only possible “deal breaker”. Mr Key also said the Government would not sign a that allowed dairy tariffs to remain at present levels. New Zealand, as Trade Minister Tim Groser has also made clear, is aiming for a “gold standard” agreement and has no reason to settle for less. The TPP’s original four signatories set the standard and they should stick to it. If others want to do a weaker deal, they are in the wrong talks. The TPP means business.

What I would welcome is an equally clear statement from the Government on the IP provisions. Their negotiating position to date has been excellent – no change to our domestic laws. However the fear is this may be compromised later on. A pro-TPP website has also been launched – Trade Works, by a group of businesses. I agree trade works. I don’t agree that US copyright laws work, or are suitable for New Zealand.

TV3 reported:

Green Party co-leader Dr Russel Norman and Ms Kelsey both claim the TPP will form a legally-binding agreement which will impact on future Governments.

“The cabinet effectively can sign them off and make them binding on us without us having any say about it. Parliament has very very little role to play in this process,” says Ms Kelsey, but Mr Hooton disagrees.

“If, after time, we don’t like it we can always pull out so there’s no question of sovereignty,” he says. “We remain sovereign.”

The facts appear to me on Mr Hooton’s side. Clause 20.8 of the existing TPP (it is an expansion being negotiated) states:

Any Party may withdraw from this Agreement. Such withdrawal shall take effect upon the expiration of six months from the date on which written notice of withdrawal is received by the Depositary.

Some people are against all trade agreements. I’ve yet to find one that the Greens or Jane Kelsey have supported. This is ironic as the China FTA has been a huge economic boon with massive increase in exports to China.

With TPP, there are definitely some proposed provisions that are not good for New Zealand. But they are just proposals at this stage, and to date New Zealand has been resisting them. This is a good thing. Of course at some stage, there may be some compromises (but recall this is a 11 party negotiation, not a bi-lateral so a lot depends on where the majority of the parties wishes lie) and one has to take a view on the final package as a whole. It might be great for NZ as a whole. It might be mildly beneficial or it might not be beneficial, either slightly or significantly.

Until we see a final agreement, my position is to keep opposing the provisions I feel are bad for NZ, but to retain an open mind on any final agreement. Ideally of course I want a TPP which has as many wins for NZ as possible. I also want it to be wins for other parties, and the US would actually benefit in the long-term if they dropped their silly tariffs (as has been the case for NZ) and also gave up trying to have copyright laws that damage the Internet. So I see the NZ position as not being bad for the US, but actually good for them also – they just have vested interests back home they try to placate.

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