This takes priority over other stuff to write: a report on a conversation about the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement held in Dunedin at the Burns Hall of the First Church of Otago.  The talk was presented by Pr Jane Kelsey and Dr Josh Freeman.  Jane Kelsey is a leading voice among TPPA watchers.  There is a good chance I won’t get to the March against the TPPA this weekend and I’m posting this report.

Imagine the big corporations making a wish list.  Their agenda is how to make government work for them. Imagine they are given the right to make the rules to suit themselves, to impose disciplines on government.

There are few barriers in the trade of commodities in New Zealand.  We export resources, most of our manufacture has moved offshore.  The big players are interested in our domestic policies that hinder the movement of data, money, ideas and people.  They want to remove those barriers, to have a say in what kind of rules and policies a government can make, on social issues, job creation, environment, business, to know who gets a say, who gets to ask the questions, and what questions.

Twelve countries are involved in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, an arc of countries around the Pacific Rim: Canada, United States, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Japan.

America’s involvement  in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is two-fold. It wants to maintain its military presence in the Pacific Rim, especially to contain China, one of New Zealand’s biggest trading partners; and America wants to maintain its economic interests.

New Zealand is interested in cementing relations in the strategic alliance.  It wants to be seen as a good player.

Outside the negotiations no one has seen the background documents to these talks.  What’s more all background documents will remain secret until four years after the agreement has been signed, cementing a done deal and nobody’s political career gets hurt.  They have their pensions to think about.  What looks to be in place is that:

  1. Banks remain on steroids
  2. Intervention in government procurement (creating local jobs)
  3. Restriction on state-owned enterprises in public functions other than commercial
  4. Intervention in copyright and medicine policy
  5. Protection for foreign investors: ‘fair and equitable treatment’ so government will not change rules on foreign investors

Indigenous rights, such as the Treaty of Waitangi, will not be applied in relation to these issues.  Free trade arguments take priority.

Trade issues will affect our health.  Drug companies do not like Pharmac where it is being effective in making available medicines to New Zealanders at low cost, and would be quite happy to undermime its authority.  They would be happy with inequalities in health, that medicines would be costed out of the reach of some patients, and other medicines would be rationed.  Nor is it convenient that governments can legislate in relation to smoking, sugary foods, or the environment in relation to health.  Already governments move cautiously in response to the litigation of corporations.  This is enough to make New Zealand doctors unhappy.  When Dr Freeman put the hat around for funding for an advertisement against the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement on health his fellow doctors trumped up the cost within five days.

Time is against this agreement.  The Obama administration would like to pass it before June 2015, before the American political system girds its loins to enter the electoral phase of its cycle.  After that period it could fall off the table like the Multilateral Agreement on Investment before it.  We don’t need to give more power to citizens of big states, like the United States and the European Union, to sue us.