New Zealand wants to be able to trade with other countries. New Zealand needs to be able to trade with other countries. Likewise, other countries need to be able to trade with us. No one disputes that. But If New Zealand does not sign the TPP, trade will still occur. If New Zealand does not sign the TPP, no one will notice.
All we have been promised is that in a decade or so, if we sign the TPP, we will have better access to markets for our primary produce. Tariff removal does not have to happen overnight. A decade is a long time. A lot of things will change before then. In a decade New Zealand will hopefully not be so reliant on exporting dairy products. We may be much more interested in exporting to countries that are not part of this trade deal.
There is no doubt politicians are under considerable pressure to sign, even before the final document is sighted. This pressure comes those who will benefit the most from these deals – the very impressive, very convincing lobbyists for the big corporations. Standing up to them and insisting on taking time to look at the deal from all perspectives takes confidence and courage. Yet it is what our politicians said they would do. And It is what our politicians must do.
We need see the fine print. We need time to read the fine print, to think about all the things that could go wrong. Will corporations be able to be held to account if what they want to do threatens our wellbeing? For example, by locking us out of access to, or destroying the quality of, essential resources such as water. Or paying wages that workers are unable to live on. Not taking responsibility for the disposal of the products they bring into our countries once they have reached the end of their useful life. Investment practices that make land and buildings unaffordable for most people.
Will governments and local bodies be able to implement local procurement policies? Insist that contractors pay workers a living wage?
Will changes to patent law make some medicines unaffordable under our public health system? Or tie up the knowledge and technology that we need to prevent climate change so that only those who can afford to pay can make use of it, when preventing climate change will only be possible if everyone everywhere reduces emissions?
Trade Minister David Parker has indicated there will be time for public submissions when the bill to ratify the agreement is put to parliament. He has also indicated that it is unlikely the government will change their minds. This is an unfortunate stance from a party that, before the election, said it would commission an independent analysis of the TPP. It is even more unfortunate that New Zealand First who, pre-election, were implacably opposed to the TPP, do not join with the Greens in insisting that this is done.
Most Labour, Green, and NZ First voters opposed the TPP. The government would do well to listen to the people who put them into power, rather than the corporate lobbyists.