The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement! Is it the right Key to the wrong door? Who knows? The main ‘talk-back’ argument against signing up to it seems to be that ‘we just don’t know all the details of it.’ Actually I think all the details and implications would be well over the heads of any of those I heard on talk-back or saw on TV. Are they expecting to get a referendum on it? I would not expect to be making such an agreement a public vote because we elect our representatives to employ the best qualified specialists to make such decisions for us. This is not a subject for a referendum. The worst possible scenario, in my mind, is a referendum in which the opinions of perhaps 50 of the country’s best minds on such a complex agreement would be out-voted by perhaps 50% of the 50,000 or even 500,000 of our citizens who have a legal vote but in whom you and I would not trust to make a strategic decision about a local Four Square store let alone our national economy. Because the silent majority would possibly, and quite reasonably, not vote, rationalising that they do not have the necessary skills to assess the best decision. So in a referendum the noisy minority who protest everything just because protesting is what they do, would make the decision for the rest of us. Such a process is the fast track to 3rd world status.
The protesters have come out in droves. The Greens were always going to oppose it. Opposing the establishment is just what they do, without any rationalisation. Labour have also decided to oppose it, despite the fact that it was Labour who initially introduced New Zealand into the process and were very energetic pushing us through the negotiations during their years of Government and even afterwards. It must be remembered that the TPPA came out of a much smaller arrangement that did not include the USA or Australia. The Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement was signed between Singapore, New Zealand, Chile and Brunei back in 2005 when Labour were in power. From 2008 other countries showed interest in the Agreement culminating in a total of 12 countries, representing a third of the global GDP, signing the agreement adding USA, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Australia to the original partners. Actually you have to say that is an impressive outcome for the relatively small-economy group of original partners.
Through this TPPA New Zealand is trying to become expand our markets for milk powder and other dairy products of butter and cheese as well as our beef and lamb and a pleasant bottle of wine to wash it all down. Nothing new about that; nothing to be concerned about. It was how our economy was established with Britain being our sole markets. But since Britain joined the Euro club and shut us out, we have had to seek out new markets and this TPP Agreement is simply an extension of that process. Yes we make concessions about what is in it for our partners as well as ourselves and what rights and obligations we all have as partners, but negotiating that is for intellects much sharper and better informed than mine. On this history alone, I would support the TPPA, because I just do not have the ability to predict the economic outcome of such a complex agreement. But I would also concede that I should not even have a vote if the best I can offer is an analysis of the history of the agreement. So the government today made the decision to sign and acted on that. I support that as all done and dusted now, as long as the USA Congress ratifies it.
But if the USA Congress do not ratify the agreement, then is it all bets off and back to the drawing board? A few years ago we would have thought that this would be a USA Congressional rubber stamp job for a country which saw itself as the messiah for open borders and free trade. But today, this is no longer an assumption we can make. Decades of embarrassing and expensive military campaigns with a major personal impact on many families before and after the 9/11 embarrassment has resulted in a USA that is far less confident. They are quickly becoming more and more the paranoid police state that we used to associate with Mao Tse Dong and Soviet communism.
So what happens if TPPA all falls through the USA Congressional floor. What do we do then? Take the USA out of it and we take half of the GDP value out of the Agreement, which is relevant. The TPP group is then about 15% of the global GDP, the equivalent of USA or China or the European Union. So the TPP would still be a significant partnership. With the USA out of it I wonder if the protesters will still protest so vehemently? No other partner in the could be accused of global domination ambitions. But if the protesters still want us out of the agreement with the ten signatories other than the USA, then we can only presume their vision for New Zealand economy is that we are just one of the village craft and produce markets of the world, complete with tie-dyed T-shirts, coloured sunbeam-catchers and buskers. Perhaps an idyllic life-style, but we would have to give up a lot of the luxuries in life that many have now assumed to be necessities. The surplus from our village-market economy would not generate too much in the way of overseas funds necessary to buy the things we cannot make. Still, if that is the way the majority want us to go, then c’est la vie. That is democracy. I will send them a postcard from my new home in Australia.