TPPA – what we don’t know
All governments involved in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) have kept negotiations deliberately secret. This enables them to brush of any criticism from its sceptical citizens as uninformed scaremongering. They won’t release the full text for some time yet even if it has now been signed off.
So far the discussion is based on leaks of some of the chapters and on the experience with previous similar agreements. All of which should give us reason for grave concern.
However, we don’t know the details and of course the devil lies always in the detail.
We also cannot see into the future. So all predictions of future gains are only speculative. For instance when tariffs are cut on – for argument’s sake – Kiwifruit by ten percent we are made to believe that this will mean 10 % more return for the NZ Kiwifruit industry. This however is based on the assumption that the overseas buyers are totally stupid. Knowing about the tariff reduction they will ask for a equivalent price reduction to pass this on to their consumers. After all wasn’t “free” trade to benefit consumers ? In this game the big supermarkets hold the power not the producers. Just listen to Rod Oram on Tuesday’s Radio NZ National. He is asking all the right questions. This goes for all tariff reductions. To hail them as just benefitting our exporters is not telling us the truth.
TPPA – what we do know
Looking at the Orwellian “Ministry of Truth” propaganda efforts already starting the very morning we know that the detailed content of the so called “trade” deal doesn’t matter in the government’s effort to sell the deal to the sceptical New Zealand public. Without any more information since yesterday, last week or last month one government official involved in previous negotiations claimed on Radio NZ National that the scaremongering of the critics has been proved to be unfounded. How can he claim that ? On which information ? Just because the deal was reached ? As no more information has come out it can only be what it was before, which is spin, lies and propaganda.
Our government declares that the just signed TPPA will give “more jobs, higher incomes and a better standard of living” to New Zealanders in the future without producing one shred of evidence. Instead as far as actual trade is concerned like dairy we read that Fonterra was “very disappointed” by limited gains for dairy in the TPPA, with the Government admitting it was “too difficult” to lift all tariffs in the newly-agreed trade deal. And that is already the most positive spin they can put on it.
Another thing we do already know is the fact that copyrights have been extended from 50 to 70 years. This exemplifies what the whole deal is about. It adds billions of dollars to the balance sheets of the corporate copyright holders while the creators of the copyright don’t actually benefit and couldn’t care less if their creation is protected for 70 instead of 50 years after their death. A justification for this gigantic gift to the corporations is not even attempted. Unlike with pharmaceuticals where is is meant to encourage expensive research We are just told that books and music will get more expensive.
TPPA – the bigger picture
One thing about the whole TPP / “free trade” discussion I have missed so far is the part it plays in the wider neoliberal agenda.
What is reported is only one side of the coin/story/ledger. We are blindly accepting that getting rid of tariffs must be a good thing. Our exporters don’t have to pay them and we consumers might get imported stuff cheaper.
However, the later doesn’t apply to New Zealand anymore as we unilaterally gave tariffs away a long time ago as good disciples of the neoliberal textbook. We threw away our future bargaining chips of for instance our car import tariffs, which had made it viable to have a car assembly industry in NZ. Cutting tariffs of about 350 million came at a cost of a loss of around 12,000 jobs. What is hardly ever reported and emphasised is of course the revenue loss of 350 million dollars, which could have bought a lot of health services and education.
But I am getting sidetracked and angry every time I have to remember the follies of the 1980-ties and 90-ties.
What is missing from the tariffs-good-or-bad debate is the tax/revenue aspect.
Tariffs are a form of tax and as all tax have two functions: one to gather revenue for the government, and two: achieve explicit or unspoken government policy. If you fiddle with them for policy reasons you have to at least consider the revenue implications. This means how do you want pay for a gap of 350 million in our budget as in the case above. Are our children or the sick paying for it with the lack of treatment and teachers ? Or who else is paying ?
What we are witnessing with tariff reductions and eliminations really is a tax brake for the rich and powerful international import/export corporations at the expense of weaker members of our community. And on the policy side governments surrender the most effective tool to achieve its policy goals to the corporations. And to add insult to injury the foreign corporation have demanded and got the right to sue our governments in secret overseas tribunals for any law or regulation, which might affect future profits.
It is all just another step on the way for corporations to rule the world. The role of governments and implicit in that is civil society and democracy is weakened. The private international corporations are strengthened.
While I am writing this I realise that it sounds like a nightmare conspiracy theory. But I can’t find the fault in my description of what we are all witnessing. May be my tax accountant friends and readers can help me with that.
And here for the really crazy part. It is governments i.e. politicians themselves, which are not only negotiating and signing the deal, which emasculates them but ramming it down the throats of a sceptical public, which instinctively knows that the result is not good for them.
It only shows who are the puppets and who pulls the strings.
TPPA – the role of our media
We can already gather the approach of the corporate media.
What we are witnessing is a serious step taken in our history. Nation states surrendering to the international corporations. Will it be properly reported ? No !
The media field is left to the neoliberal cheerleaders and clowns. Like last night on TV3’s “story” where six equally uninformed punters like the rest of us were asked to rate the TPPA on a scale from 1 to 10. One joker gave it 7.5 and added an extra point for the efforts in dairy, which is of course a slap in the face of that industry. It wasn’t even meant to be ironic. At least nobody saw the joke.
We are fed the platitudes of the political protagonists of the TPPA like “When the bus leaves the station you want to be on it.” The media are not asking if the bus is actually going into the direction we want before we jump on it.
The clowns should at least endeavour to find out how so many governments developed a taste for swallowing dead rats. According to our “victorious” trade minister (see cartoon above) they were all into it. There would be even a cook book in it :
> Dining out on dead rats <