Thursday, 8 October 2015

Jane Kelsey struggles to find things to object to #tpp #tppa

If this is all Jane Kelsey can find to damn the just-signed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement as “toxic,” (her word, meant seriously) then one wonders what she normally takes as poison:

Who gave the Prime Minister and Trade Minister the right to sacrifice our rights to regulate foreign investment, to decide our own copyright laws, to set up new SOEs, and whatever else they have agreed to in this secret deal and present it to us as a fait accompli?

That “damning” paragraph (my word, meant very unseriously) comes as the culmination of two-thousand of her words calling for the “campaign” against the agreement to “move into a new phase.” Yet in all those words she gives few to engender any reason to campaign against, and many more to campaign for.

She huffs and she puffs and fails even blow off a door. Indeed, the more she talks about the agreement, the more I shift from grudging approval for the agreement to outright enthusiasm. Were you aware, for instance, that under the agreement

future governments may not be able to establish new state-owned enterprises … which foreign competitors say has an adverse effect on their activities.

So no new nationalisations then? Or that

[foreign] investors are also expected to be able to use ISDS to enforce their contracts …

And that

The cross-border services chapter … will require governments to maintain the current failed risk-tolerant light handed approach to regulation of services.

And while listing it among her own “downsides,” she grudgingly admits “New Zealand’s patent laws currently meet the final TPPA threshold.”

So on close inspection, it seems the only real downside appears to be that she no longer has any valid reason to complain. Because even through gritted teeth she has to admit “there do appear to be more significant gains for beef, fruit, seafood, wine, forestry products, lamb – but, as the Australia Japan FTA showed, the devil will be in the detail.” If these are the details she chooses to highlight, then it seems more like a benevolent deity hidden with than a harbinger of dark satanic mills.

And but me no buts, there seem few if any real reasons for her campaign to move into any phase other than one called “shutting down now.”

Equally Bryan Gould struggles to maintain relevance for himself, let alone the “campaign.”  The TPP he says:

is about managed, not free, trade - and trade that is managed in the interests of large, international, and mainly US corporations…

his evidence for which is, apparently, that it “represents”

a further, large, and largely irreversible step towards the absorption of a small economy like New Zealand into a much larger economy – an economy that is increasingly directed from overseas, not by politicians or even officials, but by self-interested and unaccountable business leaders.

In other words, it connects little old New Zealand much more closely into the worldwide division of labour. Hardly a bad thing.

Look, the TPP looks to be about as close to full-blown, unhampered, knock-your-socks-off free trade as Dan Carter looks to putting a forty-point game together. But to complain, as both Gould and Kelsey do, that because, you know, NZ dairy doesn’t achieve full tariff-free access to the US, Canada and Japan while ignoring the small sliding tariff reductions that are allowed for is like a teenager whinging because their mummy has bought them the wrong coloured iPhone for their birthday.

It’s not full free trade—but trade between the 12 nations will be freer than it is now. There is some cronyism, but since even the cronies are quietly whimpering about things there’s less clearly less than they thought they paid for. So on balance, there are more reasons to be for than against-and being against would be to make the perfect the enemy of the good.

And since the increasing expansion of the worldwide division of labour has already meant around 138,000 people have been moved out of poverty every day for the last 25 years, unless you think that’s a bad thing rather than a good, the you and I would surely see very little to complain about that expansion continuing.

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NB: Mind you, only to Chris Trotter have the full horrors of the TPPA been fully revealed . . .

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