The TPPA is dead
After years of campaigning the TPPA is finally dead.
In the aftermath of the United States election, President-elect Trump has made it clear that he intends to withdraw from the agreement on his first day in office. Republicans and Democrats in the US House of Representatives and Congress have also stated that they will not try to push the agreement through before Trump is inaugurated on 20 January 2016.
Although there was some half-hearted talk of the TPPA going ahead without US involvement at the APEC summit in Peru, there is no realistic chance of this happeneing. First, as Professor Jane Kelsey has pointed out, for the TPPA to go ahead without the US would require the consent of all parties involved, including the US itself. Any arrangement between the remaining countries would have to be renegotiated as an entirely new agreement. Secondly, the chances of this happening are close to zero as many of the TPPA countries were engaged in the negotiations in the hope of gaining increased access to the US market for their goods and services. The Japanese Prime Minister has since written off a TPPA without the United States as "meaningless".
The death of the TPPA is a victory for the campaigners and activists who have fought the agreement in all of the potentially affected countries. While it is Donald Trump who will formally kill the agreement in January next year, the TPPA was on its last legs long before Trump was elected. It was the efforts of grassroots campaigners that delayed back the negotiations so that they fell within the US election cycle, and who made the agreement a political liability for both the US political parties and for the politicians pushing the negotiations elsewhere. In New Zealand, the civil society campaign against the TPPA has been enormous and in February this year saw the biggest protests the country has seen in many years. In doing this we were part of the international movement that ultimately stopped the agreement in its tracks. Thank you all for your efforts.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Amendment Bill
Despite Trump's strong anti-TPPA position, the National-led government insisted on pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Amendment Bill through Parliament during the media black-out that followed the US election. This has understandably caused alarm for some, but fortunately there is nothing to worry about.
Although the TPPA implementing legislation was passed by the New Zealand Parliament, it cannot and will not come into effect unless the TPPA "comes into force for New Zealand" - see s 2 of the Bill here. The TPPA will not come into force unless ratified by countries representing 85% of the GDP covered by the agreement. This cannot happen with the US, whose GDP vastly exceeds 15% of the GDP of TPPA countries. For more detail, check out the excellent analysis of the implementing legislation by Professor Geddis of the Otago University law school.
The National Party's stubbornness in passing implementing legislation for a dead agreement was a wasteful exercise in futility on the Government's part, as pointed out by new Green Party MP and former It's Our Future Coordinator Barry Coates.
What next after the TPPA?
Although the TPPA is gone, the are other international agreements to be concerned about.
The most immediate possible threat to the New Zealand public is the Trade in Services Agreement ("TiSA"), a proposed agreement to create restrictions on the regulation of international trade in services, particularly banking, healthcare and transport. This agreement, like the TPPA, is being negotiated in secret. There are 23 parties to the TiSA agreement, most significantly the US, the EU, and Japan. It was rumoured that TiSA was due to be completed at a meeting of the member countries' finance ministers in early December. This meeting has been cancelled, however, because of both disagreement between the US and EU on certain key issues, and because it is unclear what stance the Trump administration will take on the agreement. For now, at least, TiSA is looking shaky.
A further concern is the recent announcement that New Zealand and China will renegotiate their free trade agreement. At this stage there are few details available about the scope of the new negotiations. We will monitor this very closely and keep you updated, particularly if there is any hint that some of the more toxic elements of the TPPA (such as ISDS) are on the table.
Finally, with the TPPA dead there is some speculation that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations (involving China and India) may become more significant. This remains to be seen. As with the US-NZ FTA and TiSA, will keep you up to date with any RCEP developments through this bulletin or on the It's Our Future facebook page.
Thank you again for your campaigning against the TPPA. The end of the agreement is a victory for the people over corporate interests, and we should celebrate.
It is, however, bitter-sweet that the end of the TPPA may be associated for some with the rise of a xenophobic and bigoted populist to the presidency of the United States. In resisting the TPPA, we have stood against corporate power and its influence on the political process. We have also stood against the neo-liberal globalisation that has grown inequality within and between nations just as activists in the 90s and early 2000s fought against the WTO and the toxic policies of the IMF and World Bank. Rejecting these things does not mean rejecting a diverse and inclusive society, nor is it no excuse for bigotry or xenophobia. We are fortunate in New Zealand to have seen very little of this in the campaign against the TPPA and I hope there will be none in the future.
While the TPPA is over, there are and will continue to be other similar agreements to monitor and to resist. As well as being part of a coordinated international campaign, your efforts part of the tradition of resistance to unfair trade agreements and corporate power that stopped the Multilateral Agreement on Investment in 1997 and the Doha Round of the WTO in the years that followed. This struggle will continue and we all have to remain on our toes.
Kia kaha koutou,
It’s Our Future Coordinator