TPPA – more of the same old same old
This cartoon appeared in the Listener Magazine in 1999. Slane could recycle it for today. Nothing has changed. Then it was the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) conference in Auckland. New Zealand’s neoliberal government was frantically trying to run us over the cliff. Then we were saved from ourselves by other countries, which were not prepared to follow our folly. What I have written at the time about the disastrous results of New Zealand’s then 15 year neoliberal globalisation adventure you can find on the Economic-Myth-Busters website.
Sixteen years later in their latest attempt the international corporations and their neoliberal zealot helpers in government and media are at it again. This time even bolder and more insidious in it’s consequences. And again our best chance to be saved relies more on other countries than ourselves.
Here in our country without a constitution there won’t even be vote in Parliament to decide if we should sign up to the TPPA. It just will be discussed in a select committee stacked with neoliberal supporters. The voice of the people will be dismissed by our arrogant government as that of uninformed, stupid, whinging Luddites from the flat earth society. This has been the basic attack line of the government and it’s coterie in the media against any criticism of the so called “free trade” agreement, which we still are not allowed to see.
What “free trade” ?
The brainwashing propaganda from the ‘Ministry of Truth’ and its lackeys in the media starts with the word “free trade”, which is the opposite of what the TPPA really is. Only a few of the chapters are about trade. The vast majority is about protecting monopolies in the area of pharmaceuticals, intellectual property and the internet And by all accounts instead of freeing up the dairy trade New Zealand is most interested in the agreement is a big disappointment to the industry.
The TPPA should be called a corporate monopoly power protection treaty because that is exactly what it is.
Still the government and media keep selling and talking about it as a “free trade” agreement knowing that this misnomer invokes positive connotations. This is the whole purpose of the spin. This “free trade” spin is only the beginning of the hard sell over the next few months. At the same time the government and media can brush off critics for another few weeks by insisting that we haven’t seen the full text yet.
Minister acting illegally and unconstitutionally
The blanket withholding of any information by minister Tim Grosser requested under the Official Information Act (OIA) was not only illegal but unconstitutional. The NZ Herald reports
Firstly, there was “no lawful basis” for the Minister to withhold some of the information requested by Professor Kelsey.
Secondly, Justice Collins wrote, “the Act plays a significant role in New Zealand’s constitutional and democratic arrangements”.
“It is essential the Act’s meaning and purpose is fully honoured by those required to consider the release of official information.”
How bad must the deal be if our government goes to such length of deception, coverup and breaking the law and constitutional conventions to push it down our throats ?
And the government is succeeding with it’s dirty tactics. The time frame is such that being kept in the dark and fed propaganda lies for so long we will hardly have an opportunity of meaningful analysis and debate before the TPPA is pushed through.
What are we : man or sheep ?
The interesting observation of the latest turn of the debate is that since the results of the negotiations became clear and the deal was agreed the protagonists of the TPPA have run out of supporting arguments.
After the big disappointment for our dairy industry the little bits of tariff reductions for some of our other primary industries over the coming decades are negligible even if their questionable value to New Zealand is totally overstated. (see my last blog: Dining out on dead rats)
On the other side the costs, which were hidden and denied for so long, are very real and substantial.
One example is the extension of intellectual property rights by 20 years. This just adds billions of dollars to the balance sheets of the corporate copyright owners we consumers have to pay for. There is not even any pretence of a justification unlike the big pharmaceutical corporations, which argued that they had to recover the huge costs of developing new generation drugs.
When the copyright extension from 50 to 70 years was passed in the US some years ago on behalf of the Disney Corporation when their major copyrights were due to end the law was appropriately called the “Mickey Mouse Law“. Why on earth should we adopt the Mickey mouse law to benefit Hollywood ?
What the protagonists are left with is the notion that it is unthinkable that little New Zealand would not be “on the bus”, when it was leaving the station. This is not even an argument. It is a variation of being part of the “club” and having to pay a price for it. Whenever New Zealand often reluctantly joined the “club” for no good reason other than being bullied by the big boys we paid a hefty price from Gallipoli to Vietnam to Afghanistan.
Have we forgotten our proudest moments in living memory when little New Zealand stood up to the bullies and decided not to be part of the club or on the bus ? When we resisted US pressure and took an independent position on the nuclear issue. When we did not join the phoney coalition committing the war crime of invading Iraq in 2003. A war, which not only was an international war crime but also so stupid that 12 years later the world has to deal with its disastrous consequences in the Middle East. To keep us off that bus was the only great achievement of the Clark government. Now she has for her own personal ambitions fallen behind the TPPA proponents.
What is wrong with us that we have to follow and be on any bus without asking where it is taking us ?
I cannot help to see my lambs pushing and shoving to get on the “bus” when their time has come to go to lamb heaven.
How bad must the TPPA be when it’s protagonist have to scrape the barrel and resort to the most stupid argument ever : Being on the bus.
Is there no consideration that the bus we are so desperate to be on is in fact a sheep truck taking us to free trade heaven.