OPINION: By Professor Jane Kelsey
In New Zealand, we dared to declare ourselves nuclear-free in the 1980s – dire warnings that ditching the Anzus alliance would make us a pariah, isolated and ridiculed never came to pass. Instead, we were celebrated as a small, independent nation with the guts to decide our own future. Why can’t we do the same with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?
The National government ignored widespread opposition from ordinary New Zealanders when it signed the secretly negotiated deal. Doubtless we’ll continue to be fed the old Anzus line that New Zealand can’t afford to not to be at the table.
National’s glitzy new “TPP fact” page is bad wine repackaged in new bottles. Here’s a few facts they don’t tell you: The projected economic gains of 0.9 per cent of GDP by 2030 are within their own margin of error, even before costs are factored in and disregarding unrealistic modelling.
More than 1600 US companies, the most litigious in the world, will gain new rights they can enforce through private offshore tribunals if/when regulation damages their value or profits.
The agreement guarantees foreign states and corporations a right of input into regulatory decisions, which Maori, trade unions, small businesses and local government would not have.
National never wanted us to debate these and other issues and hid instead behind a shroud of secrecy.
US veto power
The US has a veto on the TPP coming into force, which makes it captive to its domestic politics. A majority of Congress, including key leaders, oppose the TPP unless changes are made.
Top of the list are longer monopolies for new generation biologics medicines, which would blow out Pharmac’s budget, and promises that governments won’t stop tobacco companies suing them over smokefree policies.
Congress won’t approve the TPP before the presidential election unless New Zealand and other countries sign up to these changes. All presidential candidates polling over 5 per cent oppose the agreement and want to rewrite it too.
In its rush to get the TPP signed and into Parliament, the National government risks changing our laws and policies to implement an agreement that may never happen.
All pain, no gain. It’s time to declare New Zealand a TPP-free zone.
Dr Jane Kelsey is a law professor at the University of Auckland and has been New Zealand’s leading opponent of TPP. This article was first published in The New Zealand Herald on February 4 and has been republished here with the author’s permission.