Perspectives: TPPA: Hijacking free-trade; opinion by Amanda Vickers

[quote_box_right]Here one of several voices on the TPPA. Make no mistake that the TPPA will affect you and your grandchildren. It is a treaty the Government is negotiating in secret. It is binding and it has been fiercely criticised. Be informed. Also see www.itsourfuture.org.nz[/quote_box_right]

The other day, a friend told me indignantly that those opposing the TPPA are “anti-free-trade”. I believe this is due to the common narrative about the TPPA — that it is only a free-trade agreement, but this is misleading. 

Only 5 of the 29 chapters of the TPPA concern trade. The remaining 24 non-trade chapters are the “quid pro quo” of the deal, and therein lies my point. This is a cost-benefit issue; it is not simply an “anti-free-trade” debate per se.

So what are the costs? The answer is, whatever is in the other 24 chapters. And that is highly secretive information that only the 600 multi-national corporations who have contributed to the text (and the negotiators) are privy to.

Thousands of protesters demonstrated their objection to the TPPA in August. Here they send a message about the lack of public consultation regarding the treaty negotiations. Image courtesy Action station www.actionstation.org.nz
Thousands of protesters demonstrated their objection to the TPPA in August. Here they send a message about the lack of public consultation regarding the treaty negotiations.
Image courtesy Action station www.actionstation.org.nz

In his paper “Economic Gains and Costs from the TPP” Geoff Bertram, senior economist at Victoria University of Wellington, says “Some of the most trenchant criticism of these non-trade elements in the TPP has come from prominent economists concerned at the hijacking of free-trade rhetoric to promote exclusionary and protectionist provisions driven not by economic theory, but simply by the lobbying power of large US corporate interests.”

Some of the information in the 24 chapters has been leaked and is being criticised by broad groups of national and international health and legal experts, including senior medical specialists, Nobel Laureate economists, climate scientists, international human rights experts, and members of the public. All of them are included in the 25,000 New Zealanders protesting against the TPPA.

What Benefits?

We are being assured that the eventual ~$5 billion pa profit claimed by Trade Minister Groser is going to be well worth it. But hang on again. Where did that figure even come from?

Bertram, who is scathing about this claim, says “This profit is propaganda and is completely unsubstantiated. Groser and other Government officials are parroting the information originally provided by Petri from the Peterson Institute in Washington”. 

And there it is. We’re negotiating this agreement based on predictions of one analysis done in America some time ago.

“These big sounding numbers have generally been taken at face value by political commentators and the media, with very little investigation into to how they were derived, what assumptions underlie them, and what crucial issues may have been left out of the calculations” says Bertram in his research paper — the only comprehensive analysis done in New Zealand by a New Zealander, about the TPPA gains and costs.

Geoff Bertram, senior economist at Victoria University claims “the TPPA could be worth — at the absolute most — NZ $1 Billion to our economy, but at huge cost to our sovereignty, and politicians quoting those figures are not economists and have not read my research paper”

Bertram said the Peterson Institute has never come back with a rebuttal of his paper which was published over a year ago.

Jane Kelsey, Auckland University Law professor said on Seven Sharp recently “the US Department of Agriculture calculates that if all of the barriers were removed across all of the countries, NZ stands to gain 0.01% of GDP by 2025. Where’s the bonanza in that?”. On Mainland TV, she previously said “Wikileaks did a lovely little number a while back where the lead negotiator said we have to deflate expectations that this is going to be an El Dorado for New Zealand.”

The Government is backing down on its previous assurances of reaching a high quality deal and Key said recently that New Zealand was still “a long way from being in the best place we could on dairy ( …)  at least it will be the very best we can do.”

The best thing we can do, according to many informed, qualified and researched opinions is to walk away. There is too much at stake, especially as the TPPA is binding.

 

TPPA Protesters graphically demonstrate the effect tobacco companies may have on the Government. Photo courtesy Erik Norder Photography
TPPA Protesters graphically demonstrate the effect tobacco companies may have on the Government.
Photo courtesy Erik Norder Photography

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