Despite Jacinda Ardern claiming that the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) was “much improved” on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), it is basically the same document.

ALTHOUGH DEPUTY Prime Minister Winston Peters said a fortnight ago that the final text of the reheated Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), the Comprehensiveand Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), would not be released until early March because it had to be translated into the languages of the eleven countries involved, the government released it yesterday. Maybe the translation work didn't take as long as Peters thought it would.

"We've been very eager to be as transparent as possible with the final outcome of the agreement," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the media - who has, as predicted, left Winston Peters and Trade Minister David Parker to defend the deal she once referred to as a 'corporate charter'.

Given the agreement was negotiated entirely in secret, for Ardern to claim that her government is eager to be 'transparent' is fatuous. Her government has effectively handed the New Zealand public a fait accompli. There will be a charade of consultation and debate and little more.

While Ardern has argued it is 'improved' agreement, the facts speak otherwise. it is little different from the original TPPA.

Scott Sinclair of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives observes:

"The main change is that twenty provisions of the original pact, backed chiefly by the U.S., have been suspended. Eleven of these suspended commitments are in the Intellectual Property (IP) chapter. They include some of the most aggressive U.S. IP demands, such as extended patent terms for medicines and 70-year (+life of the author) copyright terms. Also gone are the minimum terms of data protection for biologics and requirements to allow patents for new uses of existing products (evergreening), patenting of inventions derived from plants, and patenting of processes such as surgical methods. The removal of these regressive provisions is a significant victory for critics of the original TPP chapter and will alleviate its worst feared impacts on access to affordable medicines."

But, as Jane Kelsey has pointed out, any of these twenty provisions can be reactivated at any time. They are not dead and buried, just in hibernation.

David Parker claims that the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which allows corporates to sue governments, has been reduced in scope. He is being disingenuous. Parker can only make this claim because New Zealand has signed a letter with Australia which removes the ISDS from any dispute process. Other than that, the ISDS remains fully in force.

The end result is that the 6,000 page document remains virtually unchanged, with serious implications for areas such as labour rights, indigenous rights, for the environment and efforts to tackle climate change. It makes a mockery of this government's claim to have a 'progressive agenda'. It also asks serious questions of supporters of the Labour-New Zealand First coalition government who, while opposing the TPPA when the National Party were in power, are now largely nowhere to be seen.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram: The CPTPP is a set of "corporate-friendly rules".
In an attempt to deflect criticism of the CPTPP the government has also released a 243-page National Interest Analysis (NIA) report that claims the agreement will mean $1.2 billion and $4 billion to New Zealand's economy. This assumes that the economy grows between 0.3 and 1 percent as a direct consequence of the CPTPP. It is a inconsequential increase.

A similar conclusion was reached by a 2016 study, Trading Down: Unemployment, Inequality and Other Risks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. The study, published by the Global Development and Environment Institute based at Tufts University, Boston, concluded that the TPPA would only see the New Zealand economy  grow to 0.77 percent of GDP between 2015 and 2025. It also concluded that it would result in 6,000 job losses. Unlike the NIA, it does not assume that people displaced by the free trade agreement will simply walk into new jobs. Neither local or international evidence supports the conclusion of David Parker that New Zealanders will see their standard of living improving.

Professor Jomo Kwame Sundaram, co-author of the Tuft University report, says the CPTPP remains a set of "corporate-friendly rules for foreign investors, rather than trade gains.".

Jane Kelsey says that the estimated boost to New Zealand's gross domestic product from the TPPA were no bigger than could be delivered from a currency fluctuation - and she's right.

The Green Party says that nothing in the CPTPP convinces them to support it. But its opposition amounts to little more than shouting criticisms from the sidelines. With the Green's slipping in the polls it may well be time for the party to prove that it is more than just a complaint and docile supporter of the Labour-New Zealand First coalition government.


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