People demonstrating against the TPPA in Auckland in 2015.

Commentator Chris Trotter claims that the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is "substantially different" from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. But the twenty suspended provisions of the original TPP constitute just twenty-eight of the 622 pages of the negotiated text. The rest of the agreement remains untouched. Activist John Minto says that we should not surrender to the CPTPP but continue to actively oppose it. Anything else would be a huge historic mistake - one that Labour Party activists have made before.

CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR Chris Trotter’s view of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), which has now morphed into the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), has changed dramatically since Labour and New Zealand First became the coalition government.

Before Labour made it to government, Trotter was strongly opposed to the TPP, indeed marched against it with tens of thousands of other folk in 2015. After Labour made it to government he has not only suddenly become a vocal supporter of the very same agreement, he wants the left to effectively surrender and give up opposing it. He describes this proposed sellout, in Orwellian terms, as 'constructive engagement'.

As I've pointed out many times before, Trotter's inability to maintain a principled political position is depressingly consistent but he carries on regardless - seemingly unaware that his credibility is in shreds and people are pointing and laughing at him.

John Minto: Middle class Labour activists turning a blind eye to the CPTPP.
Despite being sans credible, Trotter still likes to lecture other people about why he is always right. This week longtime activist John Minto finds himself the target of a lecture from Headmaster Trotter. What did he do to deserve such a misfortune?

John Minto not only had the temerity to write an article criticising the CPTPP but he also takes a swipe at the opportunistic politics of people like Chris Trotter. The article is pointedly headlined : "Why would any self-respecting New Zealander oppose the TPPA when National was in government and then excuse Labour for signing up to it?'. Minto writes:

"It has been astonishing to read some reaction on The Daily Blog to Labour’s decision to support the TPPA – albeit with some minor – trivial in fact – amendments.

These arguments suggest the “left” should tone down criticism of Labour for this decision and recognise that the right wing are so powerful and well-organised that if the new government doesn’t support the TPPA then it will be undermined, face a vile media/business backlash and pass up any chance for real progressive change in any area.

Unbelievable! Wrong! Idiotic!"

Such a broadside was enough to make  Chris Trotter leap to his computer keyboard. Of course, he has to explain why he is now  supporting a trade agreement he once opposed - otherwise it will look like he's just pathetically agreeing with everything Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Trotter's convenient explanation is that he's not actually supporting the TPP anymore because the CPTPP is " a substantially different document". 

This is the fiction Trotter has cooked up but the reality is, other than a few minor alterations, the CPTPP is substantially same agreement as the TPP. This is not just my view - it also the view of Professor Jane Kelsey, New Zealand's leading authority on this agreement. It is also the view of the Green Party. And, given the negative reaction to the government's stated intention to sign this 'corporate charter', also the view of most of the country.

But, according to Chris Trotter, we're all wrong.

This is worth reflecting on. The twenty suspended provisions of the original TPP constitute just twenty-eight of the 622 pages of the negotiated text. The rest of the agreement remains untouched. Nineteen out of thirty chapters were totally unchanged and three others had less than one sentence altered. And, as Jane Kelsey has pointed out , the suspended provisions can be reactivated at any time. They have not gone away. Indeed, according to some business writers, the very real intention is to reactivate them at a later date, once public opposition has subsided.

Chris Trotter: Now supporting the neoliberal CPTPP.
If this is a ' a substantially different document"' then Trotter obviously has a very generous definition of 'substantial.' Otherwise we would have to conclude that he's just making things up as he goes along.

John Minto also writes that attempts to kneecap opposition to the CPTPP would also kneecap political opposition to this Labour-NZF coalition government. This would be a huge historical mistake and one that John Minto observes has been made before:

"In some ways this is a rerun of the argument from the 1980s as Labour trashed the economy and working people’s lives. Middle class Labour activists were kept on side with progressive social policy (a nuclear ban, isolation of apartheid South Africa and homosexual law reform) while the government smashed workers and their families. Today it’s the same middle-class Labour activists who are turning a blind eye to the neo-liberal TPPA while applauding, for example, the Kiwibuild programme which will support middle class children to get their first home while 41,000 homeless working-class people will get just 1000 new state homes – yes that’s right, just a miserly 1000 – built by the Labour-led government each year."

We should not allow conservative Labour Party cheerleaders like Chris Trotter cajole us into making such a fatal and far-reaching mistake again. As John Minto rightly concludes, it is still not to late to stop the government signing up to the CPTPP: "Wringing of hands and making pathetic excuses for Labour signing up to it will do nothing. Active democratic opposition can. Let’s get active."

Note: Although barely a few hours old, John Minto's article has already disappeared off the front page of The Daily Blog, to be replaced by more pro-Labour Party articles. This includes an article by Labour MP Willie Jackson and an article by Martyn Bradbury, the editor of The Daily Blog, professing that he "loves Jacinda Ardern". 


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