Its election time, a time when you can expect to hear more often from your local MP ( or wannabe MPs) than usual. A good time then to find out what they think about various important policy issues. Of course its traditional that Candidates will say pretty much anything to get elected – so its important to record those answers for future reference.
Unfortunately I was unable to attend the candidates meeting on the island last weekend. And from what I hear it was so busy that it would have been hard to get a word in anyway. So perhaps its best that I send my questions in by email and allow for a more thoughtful and considered answer. Of course I am hoping that I will have more success with my local candidates than Radio NZ had with the National Party.
Here is the question I sent them it is about the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), if this new free trade deal is new to you you can find out more at http://tppwatch.org/what-is-tppa/
The GATT and NAFTA trade deals were disastrous for workers in the countries involved, with job losses, environmental degradation, human exploitation and debt growth. The only beneficiaries have been a few multinational companies.
The TPPA restricts our ability to set laws that govern the behaviour of corporations, It allows their business interests to be set over our public interest. Their profits over our health and environment.
- What is your party’s policy on such trade deals?
- What is your personal opinion?
- If elected will you commit making free trade negotiations transparent?
- Will you count the costs and benefits for all citizens not just businesses?
- And will you commit to a referendum on any treaty that affects our sovereignty and democracy?
Here is the reply from Labour’s Jacinda Ardern:
Thanks for sending through your questions that you were intending to ask at the candidates forum. It’s a shame that you were unable to make the meeting, but I’m more than happy to answer your queries regarding the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.
In terms of our party’s policy, the Labour Party supports moving forward with the TPPA, however, having said that, we do not support signing it at all costs.
An example of an issue that we are concerned may be put in jeopardy by the TPPA is the future of Pharmac. I believe that the negotiations thus far have the potential to jeopardise New Zealand’s ability to purchase pharmaceuticals at a good price and we are concerned that multinational pharmaceutical corporations may exert extraordinary pressure on the government to change Pharmac in its current form. Binding pharmaceutical prices is a move that would only be advantageous for multinational corporations, not for New Zealanders . For us, it’s about making sure that New Zealand doesn’t have its sovereignty negotiated away in a trade agreement.
We’re also committed to making any such negotiations transparent and accountable to all New Zealanders. In April of 2011, we supported a petition asking for a Foreign Affairs Select Committee hearing into the potential implications for New Zealand of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks. The petition, which was signed by significant groups such as the Council of Trade Unions, Oxfam and the Public Health Association, amongst others, asked that the relevant Select Committee convened a hearing into the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, and sought to provide a greater openness and transparency around the negotiating process and content.
Ultimately, Labour is of the belief that Trade agreements must work for Kiwis and for kiwi interests. We support greater transparency around trade talks and, in government, we would ensure that the views of those who had real interests in the impact of such talks had their voices heard.
Hopefully this response has answered your queries. If you’re interested in learning more about Labour’s policy in regards to Trade, you can read more about it at http://www.ownourfuture.co.nz/trade.
Here is the reply from The Green’s Denise Roche, Mainly passing on a policy statement from Russel Norman:
Hi Andrew and Millie – this responds to your question about the TPPA I think. I guess I’d add that the Greens are the only party that has consistently challenged the government on this issue because we recognise that a secret agreement of this nature is a threat to our country’s sovereignty. Labour were suspiciously silent about it this term because they started the negotiations in their last term. I do hope you’ll be getting answers from both Nats and Labour on this issue.
Auckland Central Electorate Green Party Candidate
Key must come clean about TPP before election
John Key needs to be absolutely clear with the New Zealand public before the election about what is being traded off in the interest of signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.
The deadline for the end of negotiations by the end of next year was announced by President Obama at the APEC meeting in Honolulu this morning New Zealand time.
“John Key needs to release the position papers so that in the lead up to the election New Zealanders know what he is giving away in the name of a trade deal,” Dr Norman said.
“It is ridiculous the Governments we are negotiating with have been given these documents, but the people of New Zealand are being kept in the dark.
“It is worrying that Key is promising the sale of our state assets while at the same time giving big rights to foreign companies operating here in New Zealand.”
Dr Norman said the US proposals would open up Government decision making to litigation from United States attorneys in World Bank Courts behind closed doors.
“Signing an agreement in secret that would weaken New Zealand’s sovereignty is not in our long term interests,” said Dr Norman.
“This is no ordinary trade deal. It is less about getting market access for our products and more about giving new rights to foreign companies that will undermine good Kiwi initiatives like Pharmac.
“We will be seeking to ensure the transparency of these negotiations,” Dr Norman said.
And here is the reply from Nikki Kaye of the National Party …
Thats right – nothing, nada, not a sausage. Too busy to reply, or doesn’t know the answer. Just another example of say nothing, get elected and then you can do as you please because you have a mandate. – more about that issue at: http://andrew.avowkind.net/nikki-kaye-and-the-no-reply-zone
However we can let this recent press release from the PM stand in for Nikki in this instance:
|PM welcomes significant Pacific trade deal progress
Prime Minister John Key has welcomed today’s announcement of the broad outlines for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement, and hailed it as an important step towards gaining greater access for New Zealand exporters.
The agreement was announced at a meeting of the nine countries in the TPP hosted by US President Barack Obama on the fringes of the APEC summit on Honolulu.
“This is a significant step in the TPP negotiation process,” says Mr Key. “Having all nine countries, including New Zealand, agreeing on the broad outlines for an agreement is very important.
“We have always pushed for lower trade barriers. It is good for our exporters, good for economic growth, and good for New Zealand.
“Today’s announcement signals that there is a strong political commitment from each country to conclude this free trade agreement.
“I look forward to the detailed negotiations to come making substantial progress towards the final goal of a high-quality, comprehensive trade agreement.”
So its clear that they are for it – at least in the general mom and apple pie sense. Of course the issue lies in the details.
This is my position. There is nothing wrong with the basic principle that countries should be free to sell and exchange goods freely. In fact trade has been an important basis of civilization and prosperity throughout history. Countries that trade extensively with each other rarely go to war against each other.
That said, what matters is the detail of any specific deal or agreement. It seems to me that when there is a great asymmetry in power and influence between parties to a contract that contract rarely turns out to be fair. Imagine a school bully offering to buy a smaller child’s trainers for a dollar. Imagine some protection heavies offering to sell a shopkeeper insurance against accidental fires. Imagine the world superpower of the US offering to let us sell them our cheese in return for them selling us their GMO corn and soy.
The historical experiences of Mexico, Canada, Australia and many other countries show that ordinary people, farmers and workers end up worse off after such deals than before. We notice that such details have to be negotiated outside of the normal processes of our parliamentary democracy because those involved know that we would never accept them if the facts were laid out clearly.
Let’s be clear – the US might let us import a bit more cheese in the the country – but they will by no means reduce the subsidies on their own producers. So the big deal is that we get to play on a sloping pitch – in a world of rising oil prices.
Free trade agreements target not just barriers to entry and tariffs (of which we have some of the lowest in the world) but the process of self determination itself. Our ability to decide how we want to purchase drugs through Pharmac, Our ability to decide to ban cigarettes, Our ability to restrict foreign ownership of NZ corporations or assets. Our ability to decide the labeling of GMO products and so on.
If Messrs Key and English think that this deal is genuinely good for New Zealand, I look forward to it being published in its entirety and put to the vote of the people in a referendum. If its that good a deal they should have no trouble getting my support.
It seems that Denise and Jacinda are aware of these issues and that’s a good thing. It also seems that it doesn’t really matter what Nikki thinks about the subject – as she will toe the party line come what may anyway.
If you disagree – feel free to comment below.
Addendum 24th Nov. Nikki Kaye’s reply arrives.
Thank you for your email, I realise these are late but here are my answers.
What is your party’s policy on such trade deals? What is your personal opinion?
Here is the link to National’s trade policy.
Below is an article that I wrote earlier this year regarding trade in the Asia-Pacific region which reflects my personal views.
Boosting trade in the Asia-Pacific region
Recently Prime Minister John Key was in the United States for a meeting with President Obama. This is very significant as it has been many, many years since a NZ Prime Minister has met with a US President and it signals a strengthening of the relationship between our two counties. One of the key issues they discussed was trade and the importance of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to our region.
The TPP, currently being negotiated, will mean the creation of a free trade agreement between New Zealand, Asia and the USA. It will be the first multi-lateral agreement between Asian countries and the US, and New Zealand businesses will be at its heart. There has been a high level of public interest in the TPP and consultation continues with regular updates on the progress of the negotiations provided on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s website www.mfat.govt.nz.
International trade remains a cornerstone of the Government’s plan to grow our economy. In Auckland we benefit more than many parts of the country through greater trade access and freer trade with growing Asian economies. Over the past three years our Trade Minister Tim Groser has negotiated or signed trade deals which will bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to our shores.
We know that to increase our exports, we need to be more integrated with, and connected to, the global economy. That’s why we are focused on breaking down barriers to trade. The Prime Minister has also recently travelled to India to meet with the Indian Prime Minister with the aim of building stronger ties between our two countries. Auckland is a city with a huge Indian expat community, the benefits of strengthening of this relationship are not just economic but are important for the many Indian families that have chosen to make Auckland their home.
Trade between NZ and India is already worth more than $1 billion a year and we want to boost that further. Auckland has a large community of small to medium businesses and they stand to benefit from free trade arrangements which make our economy more competitive for our exporters.
The opportunity to expand our cooperation on trade with the TPP and India will help our exporters to succeed and ensure that we can meet the demands of Asia’s growing middle class. And if we can do this, I believe we’ll continue to see our economy grow and deliver the new, high paying jobs that Aucklanders need and want.
If elected will you commit making free trade negotiations transparent?
The practice of this government, as with our predecessors, has been to give the public and stakeholders full opportunities for input on the key policy issues. For instance, with regard to the TPP, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) invited initial public submissions in 2008 and has, with other departments, undertaken more targeted consultations since then (a good example being last year’s extensive round of consultations on intellectual policy issues, which shaped the approach we have taken at the negotiating table). These consultations have deliberately included regular conversations with stakeholders who are critical of the negotiation.
In light of the high level of public interest in TPP, MFAT is also looking at options for making more information available, including producing information papers on key issues and a regular column by TPP negotiators. Officials will continue to undertake stakeholder consultation, and in the meantime regular updates on the progress of the negotiations will be provided on the MFAT’s website www.mfat.govt.nz.
As with any other trade agreement, the final TPP deal will go through the full Parliamentary treaty examination process before it is ratified by New Zealand.
Will you count the costs and benefits for all citizens not just businesses?
New Zealand’s record on the negotiation and implementation of free trade agreements shows that it is possible to negotiate deals that maximize net benefit to New Zealand without making unacceptable policy compromises. This means we hold out for a result that offers clear net benefit and that minimizes the impacts on current domestic policy settings.
Cabinet must also approve a National Interest Analysis, which sets out the advantages and disadvantages for New Zealand in becoming or ceasing to be a party to a treaty or trade negotiation.
And will you commit to a referendum on any treaty that affects our sovereignty and democracy?
We do not have any current plans to commit to a referendum in this area. The treaty and trade negotiation process does not affect our sovereignty and goes through a full democratic, legislative process before being ratified.