New Zealanders don't want the TPP

James Shaw, NZ Greens MP
James Shaw, NZ Greens MP

Despite all the rhetoric of ‘free trade’, historical evidence shows that deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) are designed to advance the interests of multinational companies above all else. The TPP is a multilateral trade agreement being negotiated between New Zealand and eleven other Pacific/Asian countries, including the United States. However, those negotiations are being conducted almost entirely in secret. Members of New Zealand’s right-wing National government have argued that such secrecy is necessary so as to allow for free and frank discussion during the negotiations. Attempts to make the negotiations more transparent have been fiercely resisted. Four years ago, the Council of Trade Unions and other organisations petitioned the government to make its negotiating position publicly available. It took until February this year for them to be given permission to appear in front of the Foreign Affairs and Trade Parliamentary Select Committee. The little that we do know of the deal has come from leaked documents. What they have revealed is profoundly disturbing.

The problems with multilateral agreements such as the TPP are already well known to members of the Green movement, but it is worth reiterating the specific concerns we have in New Zealand. Firstly, leaked documents show that the TPP will likely contain investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms. These could allow multinational corporations to sue the New Zealand government if they believe their investment rights have been breached. As the recent case in Uruguay has illustrated, this has the potential to curb the New Zealand government’s ability to set domestic policy and enact laws. Secondly, there are implications for New Zealand’s public drug-buying agency, Pharmac. Currently, Pharmac chooses to subsidise drugs based on independent cost-benefit analysis. However, under the TPP, Pharmac decisions could be appealed by American pharmaceutical companies and bulk buying discounts would be stopped. The end result would see New Zealanders paying more for medicines. These are just a few of many possible problems, but they illustrate how the TPP seems to be designed with the interests of multinational companies in mind rather than ordinary New Zealanders.

Consequently, we in the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand have devoted ourselves to stopping the TPP being enacted. Along with an alliance of social organisations and political parties, we have staged a number of protests and rallies calling on the New Zealand government to reject the deal. Failing that, we’ve implored the government to at least conduct the negotiations in a more transparent and accountable manner. Our efforts have attracted significant public support. A poll conducted in December 2012 showed 64 percent of New Zealanders thought trade agreements, such as the TPP, which allow corporations to sue governments, should be rejected. Last year, a National Day of Action on 8th November saw thousands of concerned citizens march in protests and rallies across New Zealand. Another Day of Action on 7th March this year saw anti-TPP protests in 22 towns and cities throughout the country. New Zealanders do not want this deal and the Greens are making sure their voices are heard. 

By James Shaw MP

James Shaw, NZ Greens MP
'Democracy not found' - anti TPP protest in Wellington NZ