|Jane Kelsey: "Toxic items remain in every chapter".|
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern claims her government has won some major concessions on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, now rebranded the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). But New Zealand's leading authority on the agreement, Professor Jane Kelsey, says that little has changed and that "toxic items remain in almost every chapter". But, like a bad used car salesman, the Government appears determined to sell the country a shonky deal that won't be good for it.
HAVING WRITTEN AND SPOKEN about it for many years, Professor Jane Kelsey is undoubtedly New Zealand's 'go to' authority on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. You don't have to always agree with what she has to say, but you can be confident that her comments are informed comments. Jane Kelsey knows what she's talking about.
So when Kelsey writes that "Bad news is that the Labour government has endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, with the suspension of a limited range of items", you have to take her comments seriously.
You have to take note that her view directly contradicts that of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who has claimed that concessions carved out, particularly on the investor-state disputes settlement clauses, had cleared the way for New Zealand to sign up for the TPP or, as it now known, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
That's not a view that Professor Kelsey shares. She says that while some of the worst provisions of the agreement might have been suspended, "toxic items remain in almost every chapter". She also makes the point that the suspended provisions are not gone forever but can be reactivated at any time. She writes: ". ..Their mere presence ensures they will resurface in future agreements. Japan has already proposed some of them in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).''
Kelsey also refutes Ardern's claim that significant concessions have been won on the investor-state disputes settlement clauses:
"There is no change to the pro-investor rules or the core investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism. A provision that would allow foreign investors to use the TPPA’s ISDS mechanism to enforce contracts for infrastructure or natural resources has been suspended, as has the ability to challenge measures affecting certain financial investments. But investors can still use ISDS to enforce their special rights under the investment chapter, and the delegitimised ISDS process remains intact.'
You would have to be the worst sort of Labour apologist not to conclude that Ardern is being economical with the truth in an attempt to justify her government signing the CPTPP - an agreement she knows is unpopular with the public. But this agreement is little better than the one Trade Minister David Parker attacked at anti-TPP demonstrations in 2015.
Kelsey is calling the government's bluff and is demanding "robust analysis" of the agreement - "the robust analysis that Labour called for in opposition, independent of MFAT and consultants like the NZIER who basically rubber stamped the previous shonky modelling.'
As well, she's calling for public consultation on a deal that Canada thought was bad enough to walk away from.
Although Labour supporters were hostile to the TPP when the National Party were in government, there is no guarantee the same level of opposition will be on display now that Labour is in charge. Such is the infantilism of dodgy centrist politics. Labour supporters might instead be content with tweeting further about Jacinda Ardern's dead cat or going ga ga about Speaker Trevor Mallard holding a baby or two.