On balance, the TPPA appears to have greater pre-determined social and environmental costs than it has potential economic benefits.
So today is the day that our government signs the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). There is nothing special about this signing which is simply a part of the process of bringing the agreement to our parliament for ratification. All countries will follow the same process.

What is it that we will be signing up to?

The TPPA has four parts to it, each with its own benefits and downsides.

The first is a free trade agreement amongst the parties. It reduces import tariffs and and quotas, as well as eliminating export subsidies. These measures will be good for New Zealand’s economy and if it could be, should be signed today.

Trans-Pacific-Partnership-National-Interest-Analysis,-25Jan2016-1The government estimates a potential gain to our economy of $2.7 billion per year by 2030. TPPA detractors argue that this amount, whilst significant, is less than the potential down side costs of the other parts of the Agreement.

The second aspect is a set of standard trade rules that applies between all the parties. That too, is something that should probably be signed up to today.

The third is the contentious part that generated so much angst over the past five years. Despite the government’s secret deal making, the details that were leaked appear to have underestimated the potential costs to our society.

Investor rights, intellectual property, and regulations in the pharmaceuticals, financial services and other industries are all covered. These aspects will result in costs to our country regardless of whether our exporters secure the much touted economic gains.

The dispute settlement aspects mean that our laws are not ruled on by our courts, expose us to significant fines by greedy corporates and are not available to domestic companies.

These non-trade regulations will write in to our laws, provisions that favour foreign corporate powers over our social, environmental and corporate laws.

The fourth part covers labor and environment standards intended to improve social fairness and environmental sustainability. With climate change not even mentioned, these standards are seen as thin and unenforceable.

On balance, the TPPA appears to have greater pre-determined social and environmental costs than it has potential economic benefits. It is therefore, not a good deal for New Zealand and so ought not be signed.

It will of course be signed so that it can be tabled in parliament for debate and for new conformance laws to be enacted. Those new laws must be certified by corporates and governments other than our own and so it is that our sovereignty becomes forfeit.

The danger is that this National government will pass those new laws before the TPPA is accepted by all parties to the agreement. That would leave us, as one Australian observer mused … up the creek in a barb wire canoe