Hamish Rutherford writes:

What is the difference between the TPP and the CPTPP? The biggest change may be the meaningless rebrand.

Suddenly it is not just the TPP, it is the “comprehensive and progressive” TPP.

Labour has been stridently explaining that crucial gains have been made which freed it to sign the deal.

But for all the thousands of pages of documents generated in the creation of trade deals, both the changes and the issues yet to be resolved could be summed up in just two pages.

You do have to laugh at how adding the word progressive to it, means hey the left can now feel good about it.

The CPTPP is both better and worse than the TPP.

It is worse in the sense that we don’t have the US in it, and the gains to our exporters are reduced as we will face the same barriers and tariffs into the US as we currently have.

But it is also better as the absence of the US has meant some of the clauses they wanted (and no one else wanted) have been dropped. I’m very pleased to see much of the intellectual property chapter suspended as some of the provisions there were a net negative for NZ such as extending the term of copyright.

Having said that our negotiators did a great job resisting the worst of the US demands in the intellectual property area. Their initial wishlist would have been very harmful to us.

The reality is that in a negotiation all parties must agree to some stuff they don’t want in order to get other stuff they do want. So with the US not there, we get reduced benefits but also reduced detriments.

None of the changes are due to a change of Government in NZ. They are due to the US not being part of it anymore.

Does the deal still include investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, which so upset the nation that senior Labour MPs took to the street in protest? Yes it does. There are fewer of them, but they remain.

Trade Minister David Parker has talked bravely that the scope of the provisions have been narrowed, so foreign corporations which invested here would be unable to sue New Zealand in a foreign court “most of the time”.

He is right, but if you believed that the TPP posed a credible threat to New Zealand’s sovereignty, chances are you will still think so.

The risk posed was always abstract, something Parker will be well aware. While the ISDS provisions have existed in trade agreements for decades, they are almost never used.

The odds of the provision being used against New Zealand are genuinely remote.

The ISDS changes are minor. We have never ever had a case against us through ISDS because were not the sort of country that confiscates property on a whim etc.

But if the minor changes allow Labour to do a u-turn and declare they now support TPP, that’s good for New Zealand.

The Greens remain opposed. It will be interesting to see if NZ First also do a u-turn like Labour has.  But National has promised to vote for it, so passage is guaranteed.

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