New Zealand's Prime Minister: I'll stay in TPP's economic suicide-pact even if the USA pulls out
26 February, 2016
The secretly negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership will cost New Zealand a fortune -- the extension of its copyright from 50 to 70 years alone will suck NZD55,000,000/year out of its economy -- but it's supposed to get the benefit of increased trade with the major powers in the treaty, especially Japan and the USA.
But the treaty's future in those countries is up for grabs. In the US, most of the surviving presidential frontrunners have vowed to block it. In Canada, the new PM has looked askance at it.
Despite this shakiness, NZ Prime Minister and corrupt misogynist strongman John Key is pushing ahead with a legislative agenda to get all of NZ's TPP obligations put in place. This week, an opposition Green Party MP asked the Prime Minister if the legislation would be structured to roll back if the TPP collapses. The PM refused, saying that he would go through with the economic suicide pact even if it turns out to be unilateral.
He seems to be saying that we could be left with several alarming changes to our laws, with absolutely no trade benefit in return. These include:
* Raising the threshold at which Overseas Investment Office approval is needed from $100 million to $200 million, making it easier for overseas investors to buy up our farmland and industry.
* Changing the length of copyright from 50 years to 70 years, with an annual cost of around $55 million. We’ll also need to establish new enforcement powers for Customs, and new civil and criminal penalties for copyright infringement.
* Changes to the Patents Act, which are likely to complicate Pharmac’s access to cheaper medicines.
* Changing the Plant Varieties Act, making it harder for farmers to save seeds for use in the following season, and the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act to strengthen the rights of agricultural chemical manufacturers.
* Changes to the Tariff Act and the Customs and Excise Act – dropping our tariffs for other TPPA countries.
* Changes to the Trade Marks Act.
Jumping the TPPA gun could backfire [Kennedy Graham/Green]
New Zealand Says Laws To Implement TPP Will Be Passed Now, Despite US Uncertainties, And Won't Be Rolled Back Even If TPP Fails[Glen Moody/Techdirt]
New Zealand Says Laws To Implement TPP Will Be Passed Now, Despite US Uncertainties, And Won't Be Rolled Back Even If TPP Fails
from the lose-lose dept
As Techdirt has noted, there is evidence from multiple sources that TPP will produce negligible economic benefits for most of the nations involved. Some governments are clearly well aware of this, because they are desperate to avoid an objective cost-benefit evaluation that would show that claims about TPP's value don't stack up. Even given that pig-headed determination to push the deal through, basic prudence would surely dictate that before making all the complex legislative changes required by TPP, countries should at least wait to see whether it's going to happen. Not in New Zealand, apparently, judging by this blog post by Kennedy Graham, a Member of Parliament for the Green party there:
Yesterday in Parliament I asked the Prime Minister if he is planning to change our laws to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), even before it is clear if the US Congress will ratify it.
The Prime Minister said he was going to push ahead with changing our laws and wouldn't wait to see if the US was going to actually ratify the agreement.
If Congress doesn’t agree to the TPPA, or if the Japanese Parliament doesn’t, the whole deal falls apart. This is because the TPPA requires ratification by countries representing at least 85 percent of the total GDP, and that means the US and Japan have to be on board.
But as Graham points out, there's a problem with that:
We could find ourselves in a lose-lose situation where we've changed our laws to suit the TPPA, but the TPPA itself never comes into force so the tariffs and other trade barriers don't disappear for our exporters.
So then I asked, if the TPPA becomes null and void because the US Congress dumps it, will New Zealand reverse the changes to our laws that we’ll have already made?
The Prime Minister's answer was no. The Government won't delay introducing and passing legislation to ratify the TPPA, and then won't reverse the laws if it doesn’t go ahead.
If the United States doesn't ratify the legislation, it's null and void with the United States, in which case we don't have anything to worry about.
But that doesn't really address the question. Yes, TPP will be null and void, but what about the domestic legislation that New Zealand will already have passed at that point? Here are some of things that will have happened:
Changing the length of copyright from 50 years to 70 years, with an annual cost of around [NZ]$55 million. We'll also need to establish new enforcement powers for Customs, and new civil and criminal penalties for copyright infringement.
Changes to the Patents Act, which are likely to complicate Pharmac’s access to cheaper medicines.
Changing the Plant Varieties Act, making it harder for farmers to save seeds for use in the following season, and the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act to strengthen the rights of agricultural chemical manufacturers.
Maybe those changes would be automatically reversed if TPP fails, but Key did not say that in his answer, when he could have done so in order to dispel any doubts. The fact that New Zealand is one of the countries that will not be carrying out an independent cost-benefit analysis of the trade deal does not inspire confidence. As Graham points out, it seems that there is a very real risk that people in New Zealand will end up with most of the disadvantages of TPP, but with none of the advantages, which were slim enough to start with.