What Does Oppose Really Mean?

As expected, our government has signed the CPTPP in Chile, despite its misgivings about the remaining ISDS clause. Both David Parker and Jacinda Ardern are on record as saying they are not completely happy with the ISDS provisions that remain in the CPTPP. David Parker has said that New Zealand will “oppose including ISDS in any future trade agreements involving New Zealand.” Prime Minister Ardern has intimated the same.

Labour and New Zealand First have given mixed messages on the CPTPP (TPP in its former life). They were opposed before the election. They support it now, albeit with some misgivings. So it would be good to clarify exactly what the government means when it says it will “oppose” including ISDS clauses in future trade agreements.

Does this mean they will not sign New Zealand up to any agreements that contain ISDS clauses? Or does it mean that they will make a bit of a fuss about the ISDS clause but sign the deal anyway when the other countries party to the agreement refuse to delete the clause, as they have done with the CPTPP?

New Zealand removed our tariffs on imported goods decades ago. We are a tiny, inconsequential market for global traders. And we desperately want other countries to take the small range of products we export. We have very little leverage in trade negotiations. Nobody cares what we want. Nobody cares if we are in the deal or out of it.

The new government has made bold claims about wanting to tackle climate change and to improve the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders. If it adopts the ‘business as usual’ approach it will have no more success in this than the previous National-led government. This includes signing us up to so-called trade agreements with any sort of ISDS provisions.

In the end, we will have the same choice in future trade agreements as we have in the CPTPP. We either accept the conditions imposed or we opt out of the agreement.

So we ask the question; “Does ‘oppose including ISDS in any future trade agreements involving New Zealand’ mean the government will not sign up to agreements with ISDS clauses in them?”

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