by Don Franks 

The NZ Labour party has set down self described “non-negotiable”conditions for signing the TPPA.

Leader Andrew Little said his party supported free trade but would not back the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) unless five “non-negotiable bottom lines” were met.

They are:

  • Drug-buying agency Pharmac must be protected.

  • Corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest.

  • New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farm land and housing to non-resident foreigner buyers.

  • The Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld.

  • Meaningful gains are made for farmers in tariff reductions and market access.

To recap – The TPPA is a proposed regional free trade deal between 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Negotiations began in 2005 and were supposed to be concluded in 2012, but some issues have been so contentious that agreement has not yet been reached.tppcountries

Countries involved in the negotiations are New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, United States, Vietnam, Mexico and Canada.

Labour’s latest conditions are designed to placate voters worried about the outcome of the TPPA.  Described as “non-negotiable”, they are certainly extremely flexible.

“Pharmac must be protected” – from what and to what extent?

“Corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest”.

Since Labour’s idea of “the public interest” extends to demands that the workers’ pension age must rise, corporations may have little motivation to sue anyway.

Regarding farmland and houses, we now know only too well Labour’s attitude to “foreign  buyers”. Non-resident New Zealand buyers can still do as they wish, and probably non-Chinese foreigners also.

“The Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld” will, on form, smoothly translate into “The Treaty of Waitangi shall be occasionally mentioned”.

Finally,  “Meaningful gains are made for farmers in tariff reductions and market access”. Well, hooray. No capitalist government of New Zealand would dare to claim for any other aim than that. Although results are quite another story.  Rhetoric aside, the result of any advocacy for farmers – or any other business – is dependent on market forces, economic downturns and the economic clout of big powerful states.

And that’s how the TPPA cards will be dealt, held and folded. International trade is dominated not by corporations but by imperialist nation states, backed by their wealth and ultimately their armies. Smaller capitalist powers can only try their best for the interests of their own capitalists.

Working people suspicious of trade deal consequences need to look beyond Labour’s politicking. It is not crafted to improve our lives but to scrape up votes.

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