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. Continue reading

“Start As You Mean To Go On”

Our new Prime Minister, a soon-to-be new mum, has challenged our mindset about what a PM can and cannot do – in a good way. And Prime Minister Ardern has made all the right noises about wanting changes in other areas too. She wants to reduce poverty and inequality and prevent climate change. She wants her government to make a difference. We want her government to make a difference.

The government says it wants to rethink the way we do trade in the future. We want the government to rethink the way we do trade too. But we want the government to rethink the way we do trade now. Continue reading

TPP – Let’s Not Do This Before We See The Fine Print

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. Continue reading

‘Trade’ Treaties – Let’s Lose The Delusions of Grandeur

The main ‘trade’ deal on offer in 2018, the latest version of the TPP is, to all intents and purposes, the original version of the TPP without the US. Some of the clauses insisted on by the US have been ‘suspended’ but could be reactivated if and when the US decides to get back in the game.

Towards the end of 2017 the trade negotiators toured the country to publicize this latest version. They described it as the best deal they could negotiate for New Zealand. This is definitely not to be confused with the best deal for New Zealand. Continue reading

We Voted For Change. Will We Get It?

It looks like voters will find out sooner rather than later whether they really did get the change of government they voted for.

The TPP partners minus the US are to meet in Japan in the next two weeks to try to revive the deal. Sadly, it appears the content is the same as it has always been, from investor state dispute settlement clauses to lengthened copyright and patent times which will bump up the price of medicine. It is still just a tool to allow corporations, many of which are, ironically, US based, to impose their rules on democratically elected governments to maximise corporate profits.

Prior to becoming the government, the Greens, Labour, and NZ First all spoke out against the TPP. They agreed trade deals need a major overhaul to ensure they work in the best interests of the people and the environment, not big corporations. Based on what was said, it should be safe to assume that New Zealand will not even consider aligning itself with the deal as it stands. Continue reading

The TPP Is Gone, John, Time To Move On

Our Prime Minister, John Key, seems to be struggling to come to terms with the fact that the TPP is gone. The battle has been lost. The US will never accept it without major concessions like a 12 year patent period on biologics. US Pharmaceutical Corporations’ profits versus people’s access to lifesaving medicine. People’s lives versus making a few people very rich. It’s a no-brainer. We cannot go there and neither can the other 10 participating countries.

Time to move on. But not to other deals of the same ilk – albeit without the US as Mr Key is hoping against hope. Time to talk in wider terms than just businesses in one country’s desire to exploit people in another country. All in the name of ever expanding, ever increasing profits. Continue reading

Fair Trade Agreements Are The Way Of The Future

Many New Zealanders have spent the best part of the last two years fighting that misnamed “free trade” agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with no end in sight. And now we have its spawn, TISA (Trades In Services Agreement) and PACER-Plus (a Pacific free trade and investment agreement covering 14 Pacific Island countries, plus Australia and New Zealand), to contend with. The Europeans have their equivalent in the TTIP, and they don’t like it any more than we do. Continue reading

Why Does Anyone Want A 70-year Copyright Term?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Amendment Bill passed its first reading last week by three votes. Those in favour: National, ACT, United Future, and Phil Goff.

What National, ACT, United Future, and Phil Goff mainly voted to do was increase our copyright term to 70 years after the death of the artist or after it is first made available to the public, depending on who holds the copyright. Why? Continue reading

Tax Free Hideouts, Overseas Investment Thresholds, And The TPP

The government is determined to press ahead with the law changes needed to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership as quickly as possible – before people get their heads around what is really happening. And there is plenty happening.

The Overseas Investment Office is under scrutiny for letting unsuitable buyers buy up land, and the Panama Papers indicate foreign trusts can use New Zealand as a tax haven. At present anyone, anywhere can invest up to $100 million in New Zealand without needing government approval.

Once the TPP is ratified that threshold will be raised to $200 million. Expect the concept of ‘sensitive land’ to get some serious legal scrutiny as well. Which begs the question why even bother with the Overseas Investment Office? Continue reading