because we have already spent our trade bargaining chips, we have nothing to give in return for access to US markets. Except our sovereignty as a people, as a nation
Wide spread and vocal opposition from grass roots campaigners both here and around the world will likely come to nought this week.

People have spoken. Trade unions have hollered. Health professionals have warned. Environmentalists have rung alarm bells. Academics have published their quietly argued points.

They speak against what the politicians are doing but they are not heard. They cannot possibly know what they speak against, for they, we, are not supposed to have seen the details of the agreement to which we are about to accede.

Big business has spoken too. In support of the trade agreement. From Gallaghers Group through Dairy NZ to Mighty River Power, business is heard. And their industry associations too. Like the NZ Chamber of Commerce, the Employers and Manufacturers Association, and of course Federated Farmers.

They speak in support, citing their narrow, vested interest in their own little little part of our society. They are heard because businesses are a part of the ‘structured stakeholder program’ run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They are a stakeholder because they are friends of the government.

TPPA-flagsAnd so it is that the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is about to be signed. Our Trade Minster, Tim Groser, has been gagging to progress the negotiations. US politicians have been a lot more circumspect about giving their support.

For us, the US market is the key. Acquiesce to US demands favouring their corporates, and in return we will get freer access to their markets for our dairy and beef. Give away democratic principles and our economic future will be more secure? Not!

The negative reactions to the leaked but secret provisions within TPPA is not just from the citizens of just this country.

US resistance against the agreement and its sister bill between the US and Europe, the TTIP, is just as fierce. That resistance is based on the impact that these two agreements are likely to have on US manufacturing jobs. Critics claim that US jobs will be lost to offshore companies with lower wage costs. They know this because the same happened following the 1992 NAFTA agreement.

Can’t argue with that for it is something that New Zealand has experienced in our earlier trade agreements. But they were real bilateral trade agreements.

Today’s agreements, both the TTPA and TTIP, are about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade. They work to the benefit of big business in areas like food safety, environmental legislation, banking regulations, intellectual property.  They undermine the sovereignty of countries.

And because we have already spent our trade bargaining chips, we have nothing to give in return for access to US markets. Except our sovereignty as a people, as a nation.