Barry Coates’ speech on the final reading of the TPPA Amendment Bill

Barry Coates’ speech on the final reading of the TPPA Amendment Bill, 10 November 2016.

Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. I rise to talk on the third reading of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Amendment Bill, and I have to say, this is the story of a farce. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement has been a betrayal of us all—of exporters, of consumers, and of New Zealand citizens. It has been a waste of time and money, including this parliamentary session, where we are apparently doing the third reading of a bill for a treaty that will never come into force.

It is abundantly clear after the US election that the TPP agreement is dead. We are not here to dance on its grave and celebrate. Actually, what I want to talk about is the lessons that we should be learning from this debacle.

I want to get away from the free-trade blah- blah, actually, to look at the myths and the reality of the TPP agreement.

Firstly, it has been a shockingly bad process. There was 7 years of secret negotiations, when we were told: “Oh yes, it’s all in your interests. I’m not going to show you the agreement, but trust me, I am the Minister.” In fact, what we saw was a story of secrecy, arrogance, and patronising behaviour. There was a pretence of consultation. There was no parliamentary scrutiny. What we have seen through this process is that fact that the people of New Zealand have not bought the arguments for the TPP agreement.

We saw in November 2015, the most credible poll, the TV3 Reid Research poll, said that 60 percent of people who had an opinion were against the TPP agreement. That is 60 percent of New Zealanders who did not buy the Government’s arguments for the TPP agreement.

And the Government was not listening. Apparently at that stage the Minister said: “Oh well, anyone who’s against the TPP agreement is just rabble who knows nothing”, and that is 60 percent of the public.

So, what do we know about the TPP agreement? Well, we know that there are myths here. We know that there is a myth that it is an agreement about free trade and it is going to be good for us all. Actually, if you look at it, it is what we call a Trojan Horse treaty. The Trojan Horse is the apparently attractive outsider, and the attractive outsider is going to reduce tariffs by $274 million by 2030. Actually, that is not a very big number in the context of the whole New Zealand economy, and the modelling that was done by the New Zealand Government was absolutely shoddy. It was criticised even by the US Government in the International Trade Commission report in the US, which directly refuted the assumptions that underlay the New Zealand economic model. So even the tiny benefits that New Zealand said were going to come from the TPP agreement, of less than 1 percent increase in gross national product by 2030, were illusory, and that 1 percent, by the way, from the TPP agreement would compare with a 47 percent increase without the TPP agreement. So either you would get 47.9 percent or you would get 47 percent by 2030. What kind of benefit is that from the agreement, let alone the fact that even those benefits were illusory?

There is also the myth that the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism will not happen to us because we have got a few of these agreements and we have not been sued yet. Well, the countries that we have agreements with under the ISDS have taken, so far, 11 cases, of the 698 cases so far taken. But as soon as we sign up to the TPP agreement, we sign up to potentially being taken to court—to a shonky international tribunal—by the multinationals from countries that have accounted for 161 cases, including the most litigious corporations in the world. We would be opening ourselves up to very real risks under the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism.

We are told, as a myth, that legitimate Government policy will not be undermined, but, in fact, what the phrase in the agreement says is that Governments have the right to regulate unless it is against the terms of this agreement. So what kind of exception is that? What kind of protection is that for a Government’s right to regulate? It is entirely an illusion.

We have been told that foreign investment is a path that we are going to benefit from and we are going to get rich. So the TPP agreement would have opened up foreign investment, and this bill would have actually taken the regulation of foreign investment out of the hands of Parliament and given it to Order in Council—taken it out of the democratic mandate of this Parliament.

So what the New Zealand people know is that our iconic places are being bought up. They know that our farmland is being bought up. They know that our value chains are being bought up. They know that we are being locked into a commodity economy that is unable to add value in our own land.

We are told that the TPP agreement would actually be good for the environment and, lo and behold, if you look through the 6,000 pages of the TPP agreement, there is not a single mention of climate change—not one single mention in 6,000 pages. This agreement would have been a major block in the way of countries taking action on climate change as well as countries trying to protect their environment.

We are told that there is market access for agriculture, and then it turns out that we did not get the gold standard agreement after all. What we got was something that accounted for about 3 percent of US agricultural markets—the equivalent of three large dairy farms—and what the TPP agreement would have done is lock in that bad deal through this agreement in ways that would have made it even harder in future, and it would not have touched the agricultural subsidies that our farmers most struggle to compete with internationally.

So is this a good deal for New Zealand business? No.

Most New Zealand businesses, including small companies, know that what is happening under the TPP agreement is that rights are being given to foreign companies. Those foreign companies include companies that do not pay tax around the world. They benefit from tax havens. What is happening under the TPP agreement is they would be given even more rights, and they are the ones that are competing with New Zealand business. So New Zealand business is in fact potentially losing out under agreements like the TPP agreement.

Finally, we are told that without the TPP agreement we will actually be really badly off, but what the Australian Productivity Commission did was when it looked at the Australian – US free-trade agreement, they found that Australia had derived no benefit from it.

So what we need is to applaud the people of New Zealand. Sixty percent of those people who were against the TPP agreement, they were right. This is a bad deal. It is not good for New Zealand and, thankfully, it looks like this agreement is now dead for ever.

But the tide has turned against these agreements. These agreements also not only are dead in the United States, they are dead in Europe as well. So what we are seeing is that instead the Government is going around desperately seeking free-trade agreements anywhere in the world, even paying dodgy deals with Saudi businessmen in order to try to get a free-trade agreement in the Middle East. This desperate searching for free-trade agreements has taken over from all of our other foreign policy priorities.

It is time that we had a new kind of agreement—an agreement that is good for the local economy and good for local business, an agreement that respects democracy, that is about sustainability for our country, that is fair and equitable and respects human rights and the Treaty of Waitangi.

Those are the kinds of agreements we need. We can have those agreements. Instead, we have been wasting our time with this agreement. This third reading is a complete farce. We need to stop chasing these deals that are pretending to be about trade but are actually about the rights of foreign corporations. We as a Green Party have been fighting this agreement for 7 years. We will not support the TPP agreement. We will not support the ASEAN Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is its parallel agreement, with China, we will not support the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), and we do not support this bill.

Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker.