Last week around 25,000 people marched in protest at the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. People of all ages and occupations – a good cross section of the community.
When asked by the media, marchers time and time again eloquently expressed their concern at the secrecy of negotiations, the impact on access to medicines and the cost to our health service, the inclusion of investor state dispute provisions which would allow corporations to sue our government in international tribunals, the impact on patents and copyright laws, the impact on both local bodies’ and government’s ability to procure goods and services locally, our ability to take measures to prevent climate change, the likelihood the TPP will override the Treaty of Waitangi, the fact that the agreement is binding for the foreseeable future no matter if we change the government. These are all legitimate concerns based on the information from the agreement leaked through Wikileaks.
Yet the responses from proponents of the TPP have been to dismiss our concerns and denigrate those raising them. We have been: breathless children who don’t know what they are talking about (Minister Groser); rent-a-crowd, Labour and Greens supporters who oppose anything the government does, and misinformed (Prime Minister Key); and most recently, completely extreme (Minister Groser again).
Those promoting the TPP seem completely unwilling or unable to engage in any sort of meaningful debate. They have been sworn to secrecy, so they tell us.
Indeed, there is so much secrecy around the TPP that we are left wondering how much they themselves actually know about the agreement and what is in it. Has Prime Minister Key actually read a copy of the whole text of the agreement? We assume Minister Groser will have seen the entire draft text, but does he have a copy to study at leisure? It is a long and complex document, so we are told. Is there even a copy in New Zealand?
In the US, NPR reports that, “For any senator who wants to study the draft TPP language, it has been made available in the basement of the Capitol, inside a secure, soundproof room. There, lawmakers surrender their cellphones and other mobile devices. Any notes taken inside the room must be left in the room.” Senators complain that it is difficult to understand and impossible to commit to memory.
Perhaps Minister Groser and Prime Minister Key won’t talk about the agreement because even they don’t know for sure what is in it? They have to rely on their memory between negotiations, or Wikileaks like the rest of us. And they probably don’t read Wikileaks.
If the proponents of the TPP want to be taken seriously, they need to drop the insults and empty rhetoric and engage in informed debate. “Don’t be so silly” and “Trust us we know what we are doing” doesn’t fool anyone. John Key has been challenged to have a public debate with some of those opposed to the TPP. Let’s do it.