Protesting against the TPPA in 2016 : Will we see similar protests in 2018?
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for TransPacific Partnership is a rebranding exercise. The new ‘revised’ agreement remains a disaster for democracy, good jobs, and for action against climate change.

WHEN BOTH Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters expressed doubts about capitalism last year, they hadn't suddenly turned into socialist politicians while nobody was watching. Their argument was not with capitalism itself but with the mix of policies that were keeping it afloat.

A widely reported interview with Ardern, in which she briefly talked about the 'failure' of capitalism, was seized upon by those who wanted her to be something more thnan  just another centrist Labour politician who had been sitting on the opposition benches for nine undistinguished years.

Despite the best efforts of her supporters to promote her as something that she isn't, Ardern is little more than a politician of corporate managerialism. And that's why she leads a government that will sign the corporate friendly Trans Pacific Partnership V3.0 on March 8.

Having cynically piggybacked off widespread public opposition to the TPPA  when National were in power, Jacinda Ardern and her government will now protect the interests of capital. In a opinion piece gleefully celebrating the agreement,  The Press says that Ardern was always going to sign up because not doing so would lead to a crisis of 'business and investor confidence'. Apparently the interests of ordinary people are of no concern.

New Zealand's leading authority on the TPPA, Professor Jane Kelsey, last year called for a rigorous and independent study of any final agreement. She is unlikely to have really expected the government to agree to such independent economic modelling but it has at least exposed that the government's declared commitment to 'public consultation' and 'public accountability' has been a sham. 

Its idea of 'consultation' was to hold four barely publicised meetings in December. The government managed to 'forget' to send invitations to opponents of the agreement, as previously had  been done with similar meetings.

While Labour called for such a study while in opposition, its rather less keen about such independent economic modelling  now that it is in government. We're simply expected to trust the government because it claims it knows what its doing. Maybe it expects that most of us, as well as a docile media, will be much  too busy going goo goo over Ardern's pregnancy to be worried about trivial little things like free trade agreements that impact negatively on the lives of ordinary people.

From initial reports it appears that the changes in the third revised agreement are largely about appeasing Canada's objections to the agreement. It now says it is happy to sign.

Jane Kelsey : the new agreement is a rebranding exercise.
We need to remind ourselves that the modifications to the initial agreement consisted of twenty suspended provisions which constituted just twenty-eight of the over 600 pages of negotiated text - and these suspended provisions can be reactivated at any time. Nineteen out of thirty chapters were totally unchanged and three others had less than one sentence altered.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership is, as Jane Kelsey says, simply a rebranding exercise. This new agreement remains a disaster for democracy, good jobs, and for action against climate change.

It is unlikely though that we will see anything like the level of protest that we saw in 2016 with much of that protest having melted away now that Labour is installed in government. In the end that opposition may end up simply being the ineffectual Green Party limply voting against the agreement in Parliament. But it is a long, long way from the militancy that we saw rise up in the streets in 2016. It seems that the rebranding of the government has neutered a large chunk of the anti-TPP opposition or at least that chunk of the leadership that has significant links to the Labour Party.

I’d like to be proved wrong that Labour liberals are prepared to sell us all out in the name of political expediency but I doubt that I will be.


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