News that Prime Minister Bill English is expected to try and resuscitate the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) when he meets with his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull this weekend makes me question why English is intent on flogging this particular dead horse.
Most of the very small economic gains to New Zealand from the TPPA were going to come from trade with the USA, and these benefits were offset by the economic costs of the deal. The economics were never worth the risks of being sued by multinationals, the loss of government powers to regulate business, the threats to the environment and human rights, and the loss of our sovereignty. A TPPA without the USA makes even less sense.
The TPPA contains rules that are specifically there because the USA insisted on them. For example, new rules on issues like patents and copyright are not good for New Zealand, but we were told we’d have to accept them as the cost of getting greater access to American markets for our agricultural exports. Without the USA on board, we face all the costs of these patent and copyright rules, but none of the supposed benefits we were supposed to get in return.
Much of the TPPA text was drawn from the US template. Updating it for a new deal without the USA would be in the interests of the US, but not in our interests. We’d be better off starting from scratch and developing a new type of fair and sustainable trade agreement.
For example, there’s no good reason why New Zealand needs the controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS) that allows our government to be sued by multinational companies. Around the world, countries are moving away from writing ISDS into new trade agreements. Getting rid of ISDS should be a bottom line for New Zealand.
Our Government should recognise that the TPPA was a bad deal to begin with and going ahead without the US will only get worse. The time for agreements like the TPPA has passed. It is time to move on and work with like-minded countries to develop trade agreements that work for our exporters, uphold social and environmental standards, reduce costs for consumers and uphold our democratic rights.
For more on the way forward for trade agreements:
- My recent blog: Re-think Trade Deals for a Fair and Clean Economy.