9 Mar 2018

Govt's anti-TPP stance was fake, opponents say

5:24 pm on 9 March 2018

New Zealand has failed to completely stop foreign corporations from being able to sue the government through the new Trans Pacific Partnership.

About 80 people attended the protest while another 5000 signed a petition

Anti-TPP protesters Photo: RNZ / Katie Doyle

New Zealand and ten other countries signed the revised TPP in Chile this morning.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government wanted to stop the investor state dispute settlement provisions from applying to New Zealand altogether, but only partly achieved that goal.

"We managed in the general negotiations to make a huge change there to investor screening," Ms Ardern said.

"We then set out to undertake side letters, so with individual countries we also suspended the provisions entirely.

"I am pleased with the progress we made there - but we didn't get as far as we would have liked."

The government has signed side agreements exluding the controversial settlement process with five of the ten nations in the deal: Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Peru, Vietnam and Australia.

National's trade spokesperson Todd McClay said the signing of the TPP was good news for New Zealand, and it would make the economy more competitive across the board.

Mr McClay said he was not surprised to see Labour and New Zealand First "hang up their TPP protest signs" and support the deal once they came into power.

"They were always going to support TPP if they were in government, I think the process that you saw in opposition was just because they were in opposition.

"There will be tens of thousands of New Zealanders who are disillusioned with them because of their protests before, but they have done what is right for New Zealand today," Mr McClay told RNZ.

ACT Party leader David Seymour agreed.

"What we've seen is the government's stance that they took when in opposition was fake, and when they actually get into government they've taken some responsibility - good for them.

"Pity for the people that voted for them thinking they would oppose the TPP, but New Zealand is the winner on the day."

The Green Party has been consistent in its opposition to the TPP and today the party's trade spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman continued to attack the investor state dispute settlement provisions.

"ISDS clauses are a threat to our sovereignty, to our people and to our environment," she said.

"We are giving foreign investors and multinational corporates the right to sue us for future progressive law change that benefits New Zealand, if it hurts their profits," Ms Ghahraman said in a statement.

Industry welcomes trade advantages

Beef and Lamb's Rowena Hume said beef exporters had experienced a sharp drop in sales in Japan since it inked a free trade deal with Australia in 2015.

Kiwi fruit and vegetable exporters will also enjoy a level playing field with foreign rivals in Japan, with Chilean kiwifruit and Australian apples taking a bite out of returns to New Zealand growers.

Richard Palmer from Horticulture New Zealand says standardising health safety rules for perishable goods across 11 nations will also bolster expansion plans.

"Having an agreement that enables us to get recognition rather than having the requirements of 10 different countries, having a mechanism to agree that New Zealand's process meets exports markets requirements is really important for making it feasible for us to export.

The $1.7 billion-a-year wine sector is eyeing expansion, particularly in Japan and the rest of Asia.

Philip Gregan, the chief executive of industry body New Zealand Winegrowers, said a key development was the mutual recognition of regulations, which got rid of any unnecessary block to selling overseas.

"A number of the Asian countries have - can I put it this way - quite old-fashioned wine standards and we've been working very hard to try and bring those to a 21st century model and I think TPP's going to help with that a lot."

Opponents to keep fighting

Opponents argue the revised trade pact is just the old deal with a new name, and it remains bad for workers, consumers and the environment.

It's Our Future's Oliver Hailes said they would fight on, and urged the public to voice their concerns as Parliament now considers passing the controversial pact into law.

"With a view to get people back on the street to get peiople putting pressure on labour and New Zealand First and letting them know things haven't changed."

It's unlikely to make much difference, with the National Party all but certain to join Labour and New Zealand First in ratifying the agreement, which the government hopes to do by early next year at the latest.

The new TPP won't enter into force until it's ratified by at least half of the 11 nations involved.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs