Kia ora koutou, welcome to another edition of the It's Our Future TPPA Bulletin.
If you don't have the time to read through all of the Bulletin, here are the highlights:
Keep reading for more detail on all of the above.
- Late last month the TPPA countries, minus the US, met to discuss the revival of the TPPA without US involvement. The New Zealand government is the loudest voice in favour this happening. They are hoping to sign the Zombie TPPA in November 2017.
- If the Zombie TPPA goes ahead, NZ will be stuck with all the downsides of the original agreement (special rights for overseas corporations; undercutting the government's powers to look after its citizens and the environment; increased medicine costs) without even the minor benefits of increased access to the US market. To add insult to injury, US corporations would enjoy the benefit of changes to PHARMAC and intellectual property laws, despite the US no longer being part of the agreement.
- It's Our Future will launch an election campaign in early July to demand the government to drop the Zombie TPPA, and to invite the political parties to sign on to 10 minimum demands for future trade and investment agreements (set out later in the Bulletin).
Update on the Zombie TPPA
The story so far about the Zombie TPPA, or "TPPA-1":
The situation at the outcome of the APEC meeting is complicated. The TPPA 11 Ministers issued an ambiguously worded statement as follows:
- When the US pulled out of the original TPPA agreement in January of this year, it looked as though the toxic deal was done and dusted. This may well still be the case, but it in the last couple of months there have been some worrying developments among the remaining TPPA countries ("the TPPA 11", as in the original 12 TPPA countries, minus the US).
- New Zealand and Australia have consistently said that they want to salvage the deal, and pushed for this at a Ministerial meeting in March. This idea shifted from fantasy and into the realm of possibility when Japan did a U-turn on its previous rejection of any form of the TPPA without the US involved. Japan has since joined NZ and Australia as a vocal cheerleader for the Zombie agreement.
- Senior trade officials from the TPPA 11 countries met in Canada early last month, before a full ministerial meeting on the sidelines of APEC on 20-21 May.
- Prior to that meeting, PM Bill English visited Japan, in large part to lobby Japanese MP Shinzo Abe for the TPPA-1.
The Ministers agreed on the value of realising the TPP’s benefits and to that end, they agreed to launch a process to assess options to bring the comprehensive, high quality Agreement into force expeditiously, including how to facilitate membership for the original signatories.
The Ministers tasked their senior trade officials to engage to take forward the preparation of this assessment. Ministers asked for this work to be completed before they meet in the margins of the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting on 10-11 November 2017 in Da Nang, Vietnam.
The line about "facilitating membership for the original signatories" is diplomat-speak for "making it possible for the US to rejoin if it ever changes its mind." This was confirmed by NZ Trade Minister Todd McClay in an interview with the Inside US Trade publication.
Fortunately for us, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, made in clear on 21 May 2017, referring to the TPPA-1, that “the United States pulled out of the TPP and it’s not going to change that decision.”
It is the foolish hope that the US will rejoin the TPPA (based, perhaps, on the possibility of Trump being impeached) which underpins the NZ, Australian and Japanese position that the TPPA text should be left untouched in the coming negotations, despite the fact that the politics and economics of the agreements are entirely different without the US. In the words Prime Minister Bill English:"[T]here's a collective interest in maintaining the agreement in a way that the US could sign up to in the future." NZ Trade Minister Murray McCully has also conceded that, were the TPPA document to be opened up for changes, this would take "a very, very long time". In other words, any agreement that is signed in the immediate future will be an almost exact replica of the TPPA.
Again, fortunately for New Zealanders, renegotiation of the agreement seems to be exactly what several of the other TPPA 11 countries are planning to do. Reports suggest that Canada expects the agreement to be renegotiated, as dovVietnam and Malaysia (and possibly Chile and Peru). Interestingly, both the NZ and Australian Trade Ministers appear also to have written off the possibility of a 5 country agreement based on the TPPA, as had been rumoured in the lead-up to the APEC ministerial. This being the case, it looks as though the Zombie TPPA might be all or nothing: a word-for-word copy of the original TPPA, or several more years of re-negotiations, possibly leading nowhere.
The next few months will be critical. The New Zealand government is cheerleading the loudest for the agreement, despite the widespread opposition of the New Zealand public to the original TPPA. With the general election coming up this September, it important that we make it clear, both to the government and the opposition parties, that New Zealanders say no to a Zombie TPPA.
The Election Campaign
As you may have seen in previous Bulletins, we have been asking for your input on a set of progressive demands for future trade agreements. The volume and quality of feedback has been excellent, and very helpful in shaping the campaign platform. In particular, it was great to receive a collaboratively-prepared position paper from TPPA Action Dunedin, which you can read here. Equally, Bill Rosenberg's editorial, Could we have a people-friendly globalisation?, originally published in the CTU Monthly Economic Bulletin No. 186 (February 2017), was a great starting point.
In the end, we decided on 10 demands which are designed to be accessible, to address the worst aspects of trade and investment agreements, and to form an achievable platform for the NZ political parties to sign on to:
1. An end to secrecy
Negotiations must take place under conditions of openness, including the regular release of draft negotiation texts to the public.
2. Democratic oversight
Negotiation mandates must be voted on by Parliament — with the aid of public submissions — before the start of future trade and investment negotiations.
Future trade and investment agreements must also be presented to Parliament for approval before the conclusion of negotiations, and following independent economic, health, human rights and environmental impact assessments.
3. Unrestricted right to protect the public interest and the environment
The New Zealand government must be free to protect and promote the wellbeing of its people and the natural environment in any way it sees fit.
To achieve this, trade and investment agreements must contain strong and enforceable carve-outs to ensure that social and environmental regulation is not undermined.
4. Regulation of overseas investment
The New Zealand government must be free to set its own rules on overseas investment, and to change these rules in accordance with national priorities.
5. Protection of international law
Trade and investment agreements must not undermine states’ obligations in other international agreements, including those protecting human rights, labour standards and the environment. These obligations are to take precedence in the event of any inconsistency with future trade and investment agreements.
6. No Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Overseas investors must not have access to rights, remedies and dispute mechanisms other than those available to local investors.
7. Honour the Treaty of Waitangi
Any future trade and investment agreements must contain a strong and comprehensive carve-out to protect the rights of Māori, consistent with te Tiriti o Waitangi and other recognised sources.
8. Exclude local government
Elected local government bodies must be free to make, and be accountable for, their own decisions without being subject to the constraints of international trade and investment agreements.
9. Retain the role of the State
Trade and investment agreements must not undermine, directly or indirectly, the authority of the State to regulate the economy, hold assets, provide services to the public and enter into commercial arrangements.
10. Promote the free flow of knowledge and information
Trade and investment agreements must not confer new monopoly rights over the use and distribution of knowledge, or over the digital domain.
With the above in mind, we will be developing a set of campaign materials and actions over the next month so that we can hit the ground running in the beginning of July not only to beat the Zombie TPPA, but to demand, in terms of the above list, that future trade and investment agreements place the needs of ordinary people and the environment before geopolitics and corporate interests.
Details of the campaign and campaign materials will be set out in the next Bulletin. Please spread the word that the fight against the TPPA is back on, and keep a close eye on your inboxes and the It's Our Future facebook page for updates.
Ngā mihi koutou, please get in touch at email@example.com if you have any questions or comments.
It’s Our Future Coordinator