‘Trade for All’ by Jen Olsen

I am a Co-convener of the Alliance party and I was an organiser for TPP Action Dunedin. I have made a number of submissions detailing the views of many New Zealanders and the potential impacts on the health and well-being of our land and people from the type of multinational investor led trade treaty that we have seen with the CPTPP, RCEP, and PACER plus.

I believe we need to recognise that this old style of trade agreement has led us down the dead end road of unsustainable economic activity which takes place only to increase investment returns. We need to think differently about trade, view it through the lens of our knowledge about climate change and consider the well-being of our trading partners. Trade should be a vehicle to increase human well-being, it should be fair and it should encourage only sustainable activity. We know that inequality is a major contributor to social unrest in the world today and that resources are not fairly distributed. Fair trade does not take advantage of less powerful trading partners, exploit workers, or deplete natural resources. It allows the free flow of knowledge and encourages co-operative activity.

I am pleased to see that many of the concerns raised by the opposition movement to the TPP are now recognised to be important issues for consideration in future trade agreements, including environmental issues, transparency, Maori rights, labour rights, health and well-being for all New Zealanders, and independent governance. I support these issues being fully explored in relation to all future trade agreements.

New Zealand needs trade and we also need to do our utmost to assist in reducing the production of greenhouse gases. The IPCC Report on Global Warming makes it absolutely clear that we must act as soon as possible, and in a way that changes our direction and moves us away from destructive greenhouse gas emission towards sustainable productivity. We trade globally and we must think globally. We must think about trade as a way to bring about the changes that will not only sustain a good quality of life in New Zealand but support other peoples in a world affected by climate change.

We will need to shift from an economy based on the use of fossil fuels to a carbon neutral economy, and we must move now to change our export production and manage our imports to encourage this shift. Preparation will be needed at many levels to enable the necessary change to a sustainable model of trade both within New Zealand and internationally. Change may also include reducing net trade in the longer term and becoming more self-sufficient.

We must reduce our reliance on income generated by large numbers of tourists. This will not be a sustainable source of revenue given the high environmental impact of air travel. The tourist industry could shift towards high-end eco-tourism as a better alternative.

Our meat and dairy exports must be reduced in line with our recognition that these are major contributors to greenhouse gas production. The remaining produce can be given added value by changing farming practices to become more sustainable and reducing the use of all agrochemicals, including manufactured fertiliser, pesticides, and insecticides. Our fruit and vegetable production should move towards organic methods, which not only adds value but improves land sustainability, reduces greenhouse gas production, and can improve nutrition. Crops must become more varied with new varieties, such as hemp, being grown to manufacture new and innovative products.

We must discourage the use of unsustainable and wasteful products, such as single use plastics, packaging, and throwaway items by refusing to import them. We must apply quality control mechanisms which exclude poor quality items and those made with a limited lifespan, such as low quality clothing and electrical goods, as these are both wasteful of energy and materials and require landfill disposal. We must encourage the use of recyclable materials such as metal and glass and invest more in research into recycling other materials in New Zealand rather than shipping our waste offshore. Investment in technological development will be essential to provide new opportunities for New Zealanders.

Long term planning could include, for example, expanding the variety of timber grown in forestry. We must look for more options to add value to our primary produce such as wool and timber so that a variety of new high quality and high value goods can be developed to help replace the products that need to be phased out. Examples include clothing, furniture, sporting equipment, musical instruments, fabrics, furnishings, insulation, and alternatives to products that are currently made from petrochemical processes. These will be the desirable goods of the future.

I support the efforts of this government to maintain international organisations that promote cooperation between nations, and I believe that the spirit of co-operation is going to be essential as the world changes to a new way of living with low carbon use. However, the focus must be on alternatives to the economic model that puts capital value above human and environmental value. Investment capital is a tool that must be controlled, not a power in itself, and our government must take control of it.

We now understand the urgency of the climate situation, we want to plan effectively for the future and we should be able to make the necessary changes. We must step aside from the power of international capital and look to a more regulated and managed approach to the use of investment. An approach which recognises the need for planning and guidance to ensure a just transition to a low carbon future.

Trade and investment are not the same thing. The ties between the principle of trade, ie, that goods are exchanged in a way that is mutually agreed to be fair; and the principle of investment, ie, that an investor makes a profit, must be broken. International investors do not create fair trade, they have become far too large and are able to dictate their own conditions to governments. Decisions about our future must be made in New Zealand for New Zealand. Investment must be separated into a tool that can be controlled democratically and used to develop the new areas of enterprise and activity, such as applications of renewable energy, sustainable manufacturing processes, and recyclable products.

I want to see New Zealand participating in genuinely fair trade, trade that sees New Zealand on the road to sustainability and supports others to do the same.


Alliance co convenor Jen Olsen’s submission to The Trade For All consultation

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