TPPA: Business launches propaganda campaign
When it comes to misguided, New Zealand does it very well.
If the actions of 50+ businesspeople, professional lobbyists, and an ex-politician are anything to go by, some folk have yet to learn the lessons of the last thirty years of failed orthodox neo-liberal economic dogma.
Fifty people today (3 December) put their names to an open letter to the Prime Minister, in support of TPPA negotiations. The letter was signed by former prime minister Jim Bolger and fortynine others. (See: Open letter to Prime Minister)
Firstly, this blogger supports the right of freedom of expression for these 50 individuals to write to our Dear Leader.
Just as I have a freedom of expression to tear their letter apart and reveal it to be dangerous, naive BS, with little thought for our future or consequences.
The letter started with,
“We, the leaders of major New Zealand companies and leading business organisations, write to underline the importance of international trade and investment for New Zealand and to express our support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations now underway amongst eleven APEC economies.”
Don’t they mean “countries”? Or “nations”?
The use of “economies” was prevalent in the 1980s when neo-liberalism took hold around the world. It suggested that, as Margaret Thatcher maintained, there was no such thing as “society”. There was only the Individual; the family; and contractual transactions.
All pure ideological claptrap, of course.
Try taking the concept of society away from social creature like humans and the result is predictable,
“We are conscious that TPP is a work in progress and that judgement about the final outcome needs to be withheld until negotiators have finished their work.”
Now this really gets my goat.
How can these 50 intelligent, well-educated, highly experienced and business-savy men and women profess to support a document they have not read and suggest that ” judgement about the final outcome needs to be withheld until negotiators have finished their work”?!
How many contracts have these 50 people supported and signed without first reading the text?!
It beggars belief that businesspeople who run million-dollar (or billion dollar!) enterprises, are endorsing a document, sight unseen?
Because very few people in this country – or any other country – have read the proposed TPP Agreement. In fact, out of 29 chapters, we are privy to only five – and only because they were leaked.
“Our aim in writing is to endorse the effort now underway and to outline our conviction that this effort should continue in the interests of building a more prosperous and sustainable Asia Pacific region and of ensuring that business can play its full part in the region’s continuing recovery and future economic growth.“
I’d still like to know how these 50 Esteemed Gentlemen and Ladies know that “that this effort should continue in the interests of building a more prosperous and sustainable Asia Pacific region“.
Their faith is almost bordering on the religious. Have angels been whispering in their ears?
“We note that the treaty ratification process requires there to be consultation on the negotiated outcome before its adoption by Parliament.”
Which, by then, may be too late. Especially if – as many suspect – Key will sign up up to some horrendous agreement that,
- Undermines the viability of Pharmac to buy cheaper, generic drugs,
- Results in New Zealand being vulnerable to investor lawsuits should Parliament pass any law that “damages” their profitability (See previous blogpost: Dispatches from Planet Key)
How can there be democratic oversight by the public and Parliament if a completed Agreement is presented to Parliament as a fait accompli?
This may suit business – but then, businesspeople and National supporters tend not to support democracy as much as the rest of the country might like.
“This will assist economic growth and job creation in New Zealand.”
Rubbish. It will do no such thing. In fact, if the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) is anything to go by, we can expect more jobs to be lost, exported to overseas manufacturers which ‘enjoy’ a cheaper labour force.
NAFTA’s opponents attribute much of the displacement caused in the US labor market to the United States’ growing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. According to the Economic Policy Institute, rise in the trade deficit with Mexico alone since NAFTA was enacted led to the net displacement of 682,900 U.S. jobs by 2010. Critics see the argument of the proponents of NAFTA as being one-sided because they only take into consideration export-oriented job impact instead of looking at the trade balance, also known as net exports. They argue that increases in imports ultimately displaced the production of goods that would have been made domestically by workers within the United States.
The export-oriented argument is also critiqued because of the discrepancy between domestically produced exports and exports produced in foreign countries. For example, many US exports are simply being shipped to Mexican maquiladores where they are assembled, and then shipped back to the U.S. as final products. These are not products destined for consumption by Mexicans, yet they made up 61% of exports in 2002. However, only domestically produced exports are the ones that support U.S. labor. Therefore, the measure of net impact of trade should be calculated using only domestically produced exports as an indicator of job creation.
According to the Economic Policy Institute’s study, 61% of the net job losses due to trade with Mexico under NAFTA, or 415,000 jobs, were relatively high paying manufacturing jobs. Certain states with heavy emphasis on manufacturing industries like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and California were significantly affected by these job losses. For example, in Ohio, Trade Adjustment Assistance and NAFTA-TAA identified 14,653 jobs directly lost due to NAFTA-related reasons like relocation of U.S. firms to Mexico. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, Keystone Research Center attributed 150,000 job losses in the state to the rising U.S. trade deficit. Since 1993, 38,325 of those job losses are directly related to trade with Mexico and Canada. Although many of these workers laid off due to NAFTA were reallocated to other sectors, the majority of workers were relocated to the service industry, where average wages are 4/5 to that of the manufacturing sector.
An increase in domestic manufacturing output and a proportionally greater domestic investment in manufacturing does not necessarily mean an increase in domestic manufacturing jobs; this increase may simply reflect greater automation and higher productivity. Although the U.S. total civilian employment may have grown by almost 15 million in between 1993 and 2001, manufacturing jobs only increased by 476,000 in the same time period. Furthermore from 1994 to 2007, net manufacturing employment has declined by 3,654,000, and during this period several other free trade agreements have been concluded or expanded
We are already losing thousand of manufacturing jobs. A TPPA will worsen the situation, as local businesses make use of cheaper labour elsewhere. This means more unemployment for us; further downward pressure of wages; and more of our taxes spent on welfare.
A prime example is our current Free Trade Agreement with China.
Thousands of jobs have been lost in New Zealand as manufacturers such as Fisher & Paykel have relocated their assembly plants to China, where labour is much cheaper.
In April 2008, we lost 430 jobs to China,
All due to our FTA with that country. Now imagine this scenario multiplied ten-fold.
As ABN Amro analyst Dennis Lee said,
“They are moving their production to low-cost countries. It’s a world-wide trend. The indication is quite clear. They have to find the place that can provide them with the lowest cost production.”
So the promise of ” job creation in New Zealand ” is utter garbage.
It will certainly increase profits for shareholders.
But more jobs? Don’t count on it.
Local and worldwide experience – especially in the United States where cities such as Detroit have had their manufacturing hollowed-out – should serve as a clear warning (See: Police: “Enter Detroit At Your Own Risk”). Free trade agreements are not about jobs; they are about strengthening corporate power and maximising dividend returns to shareholders.
It’s just a shame that the fifty people who put their signatures to the open letter to Dear Leader couldn’t be more honest about it.
The open letter ends with this,
We stand ready to assist negotiators in this effort and to participate with other members of civil society in a dialogue about how TPP can contribute to what is best for our country, its people and the people of the wider region to which we belong.
A good start to ” how TPP can contribute to what is best for our country ” would be to make the negotiations public and reveal the contents of the proposed Agreement.
That would be a jolly good start.
A lawyer, Daniel Kalderimis, assures us that disputes between investors and states are real, but can be addressed.
“No one would sanely deny that there aren’t risks. But the key question is are those risks a deal breaker or can they be mitigated? I think they can be mitigated.”
Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? He’s a trade lawyer specialising in international investor-nation disputes.
Interestingly, Mr Kalderimis also commented that,
While people pointed to the possibility that Philip Morris could sue New Zealand over tobacco laws, “Philip Morris can already sue New Zealand“.
Yes, that is true. Just as Philip Morris Asia Ltd sued the Australian government last year.
The one difference that Mr Kalderimis conveniently forgot, in a John Key brain fade moment, is that such corporations can only currently sue within our own jurisdiction, under our own laws.
Under the TPPA, an investor-nation lawsuit will be conducted using secret, foreign tribunals.
This is what National is negotiating to achieve.
And this is what 50 short-sighted, self-serving, and misguided people are supporting.
The TPPA is perhaps the single most important political policy National is undertaking.
If anything in this blogpost concerns you, I encourage you to do the following,
(1) Write to the Prime Minister and express your concerns. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(2) Share this blogpost with your friends, family, workmate, etc. The more folk who know what is going on, the more chance we have of stopping this dead in it’s tracks.
(3) Write a letter to your local newspaper and demand to know why the TPPA negotiations are being held in secret. What are they hiding? Why are they hiding it? If it’s so good for us – wouldn’t the Prime Minister be the first to tell us?
NZ Herald: Open letter to Prime Minister
NZ Herald: TPP risks can be mitigated – expert
NZ Herald: Jane Kelsey: Pacific deal masks bigger plan
Pro TPPA: Trade Works
Anti TPPA: It’s Our Future
Office of US trade Representative: Outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
NZUS Council: Kiwi businesses out in support of TPP negotiations
Wikipedia: New Zealand–China Free Trade Agreement
Wikipedia: North American Free Trade Agreement
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