Is Auckland stuck in second gear with China?

A question for my friend and incoming Auckland mayor Phil Goff:  How will you lift the city’s economic relationship with China?

One in 12 Aucklanders now identifies as Chinese; it is the country’s commercial capital and the gateway for Chinese visitors, students and merchandise trade.  But we are some way from realising the full potential on the economic side.  For a city with such a close cultural connection with China, we risk missing huge opportunities in markets from financial services to film, tourism and technology.

Last week the Committee for Auckland released a timely new stock-take of the city’s links with China across five vectors: trade, investment, tourism, education and migration.

The report attempts to set the record straight about what works and what needs still to be done.  It should be required reading for the new Mayor’s economic team.

To put it more simply, Auckland needs to target the premium layer of high value added activity that will drive Auckland’s economic development.  So how do we make this happen?

To begin with, Auckland needs to make greater headway growing trade revenue from higher value exports where the city holds a natural advantage, such as financial and business services, niche manufacturing and technology.  These are challenging areas to grow, and Auckland’s strategic direction for trade clearly needs more development.

We also need to need to raise Auckland’s profile among investors.  Chinese investment in New Zealand is low at just $7 billion, The largest investments to date have been in infrastructure and facilities, but it is the primary and food processing sectors that perhaps holds greatest attraction.  Auckland has an acute need for foreign capital to achieve its growth goals, and we should be thinking more proactively about how to attract Chinese investment in key projects.  There are still too many anecdotal stories of Chinese investors finding little to attract them in Auckland.

For a city that prides itself as one of the world’s most liveable, Auckland could do better at getting Chinese tourists to spend more time here.  If Queenstown remains the jewel in New Zealand’s adventure tourism crown, surely Auckland can become the destination of choice for tourists looking for water based activities, cultural experiences or our natural environment while staying close to high quality accommodation and shopping.  More hotels and more attractions can only come with investment and with facilitated approval processes.

We’re far and away the centre for export education. Some 70% of recent tertiary enrolments from Chinese students are in Auckland.  Yet there is still a perception that Auckland can be an unfriendly and unwelcoming place to live and study.  The number of Aucklanders travelling to China to study is also too low.

Finally, Auckland must be a place that migrants from China, and elsewhere, can readily call home.  Sadly, many face ingrained attitudes and prejudices that make settling a challenge.  The housing debate too often fixates on the impact of Chinese immigration on house prices rather than the broader economic potential of our relationship with China and the contribution migrants make to the city. This needs to change- quickly.

In short, Auckland has a huge stake in a successful relationship with China.  If we want to build a prosperous, dynamic, internationally connected and enterprise-friendly city, we must recognise that a richer relationship with China is a key engine that will drive this.

(Published in the New Zealand Herald online edition, 12 October).

A Trade policy for our times

The Government’s “refresh” of its Trade Policy Strategy is both timely and appropriate.  Hopefully it will prove substantive as well.

The existing strategy coined a generation ago by former Trade Minister Tim Groser, while still an MFAT official, has served New Zealand well.  It saw in the successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round, the inauguration of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and led to the negotiation of a suite of high quality FTAs, including the as yet unratified Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The world looks vastly different today, but no less uncertain.  Back then it was unknown whether the Uruguay Round would be concluded.  Today we face the same uncertainty with TPP.  Back then we were worried about rising protectionism and being excluded from new trading blocs.  What’s new?

In the interim business has changed profoundly.  Global value chains are transforming business models. Products are no longer made in one country and shipped to another in finished form but made “in the world” in multiple jurisdictions. Trade in services is growing faster than trade in goods, and has done so for the last decade.

The challenges faced by business today are also different.  There is still the urgent, unfinished business of tariff elimination especially for agricultural goods.  Even if TPP is enacted the NZ dairy industry will have duty free access only to around 13 percent of global consumption. Beef also faces ongoing barriers.  TPP delivers duty free access for most other products including horticulture and wine, but sanitary, phytosanitary and other technical barriers to trade routinely arise.

Non-tariff barriers are the highest priority for our agricultural producers as well as for manufacturers and the forest industry.  The needs of other industries are also becoming more prominent.  New priorities include improved conditions for a new generation of services industries, better conditions for outward and inward foreign investment, new rules for the digital economy and e-commerce and new ways of fostering innovation.   SMEs have long complained they find it hard to take advantage of new market openings.  New Zealand’s fast moving technology and creative sectors also want in.  There are new pressures for a better integration of environmental and labour disciplines in trade agreements.

The existing Trade Policy Strategy established a number of “tracks” for achieving better outcomes for New Zealand – the unilateral track focused on domestic reform; the multilateral track established primacy for the GATT and its successor the WTO; the bilateral track targeted individual countries with a focus on Asia, although with the mantra “Asia first, not first and last”; the regional track looked forward to the establishment of a new Asia Pacific Community derived from APEC.

This “multi-track” approach remains relevant.  But here too things have changed.  New Zealand now has FTAs with all the Asian economies except Japan, which would be delivered by TPP, and India, where our negotiation for a new FTA is languishing.  The three amigos of NAFTA – the US, Canada and Mexico – are also covered by TPP.  Outside the Asia Pacific we are making progress with the EU and may succeed in launching a negotiation next year.  Once the UK leaves the EU, we may have another willing partner, though this is likely to take some time.  A refreshed strategy could usefully help identify who our new partners for high quality FTAs might be – if not by naming them, then at least establishing some criteria about how to recognise them, including by considering regions of potential trade growth rather than simply looking to current trade flows.

The new strategy could also address the current situation of the WTO and offer some thinking about how its role as trade liberalising body can be strengthened even while it retains centrality as the holder of global trade rules and settler of disputes.

The big unknown remains TPP and the outlook for ratification in the US.  President Obama hopes TPP can be ratified in the lame duck session of Congress; if not, then the options are bleak.  The incoming President could declare TPP dead and buried, thereby turning her/his back on generations of American leadership on trade.  Or s/he could initiate a re-negotiation, which will be far from easy and will take considerable time.  Or TPP could be adopted, possibly after some ritual face-saving, by the new Congress.  Hope springs eternal in trade policy.

If we have learnt anything about the fractious debate about TPP, it is surely that we have to do more to explain the benefits of trade and investment to a sceptical public.  Those benefits include jobs and livelihoods, a richer variety of goods and services, and new opportunities at all levels.  Yet clearly we have to make trade work even better for people, especially those who face the challenges of adjustment.  That means more and better structures for consultation, more openness where possible, more involvement by business and other stakeholders, and, where justified, carefully-crafted policy approaches that moderate the risks of that adjustment.

Trade Minister Todd McClay has made a good start by holding public meetings about the strategy around the country. Hopefully these are occasions for listening as well as talking.  The times require a new strategy to respond both to the new demands of business and also the public disquiet about the pace and extent of globalisation. That requires more than just a tweaking of what’s there already.

(Published by the Dominion Post, 4 October 2016)

If not TPP then what?

This op ed was kindly published by The Spinoff on 16 August 2016.

Trade has been described as “war by other means”.

That led the US Defence Secretary in peak hyperbole to declare that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) was as important to him as another aircraft carrier.

New Zealand’s interests are distinctly less martial, but placing TPP on the altar of lost dreams is a whole lot more serious than many imagine.

The world is more inter-dependent than ever before, although today that inter-dependence is under threat from political demagogues and backward-looking protectionists the world over.

What are the consequences and options before us if TPP does not proceed?.

Where are we now?

While TPP took six years or more to negotiate, it has been only six months or so since the signing in Auckland.

To come into effect TPP requires members representing 85% of the area’s GDP to ratify – these means both the United States as well as Japan.

Eight of the twelve parties including New Zealand have commenced the ratification process.

Four parties – the US, Canada, Chile and Brunei – have yet to get started.

President Obama is keen to see the TPP implementing legislation passed by the existing Congress in the ‘lame duck’ session after the elections on 8 November and before a new Congress and a new Administration take office on 20 January.

Last week the Administration took the first procedural step towards that end by sending a Draft Statement of Administrative Action to Congress.

Under the terms of the Trade Promotion Authority, the President is required to give at least 30 days notice to Congress of an intention to submit the text of a treaty like TPP for a vote in both Houses.

That Draft Statement does not commit the President to submitting the text, but is a pre-requisite for doing so.

Once the President decides to send the treaty text to Congress, which he may do at any time, the Senate and House must schedule the vote, up or down, within 90 days.

The Administration must also submit a number of other reports including an assessment of the impact of the treaty on employment and on the environment.

The problem is that US politicians on both sides of Congress say they have diffculties with TPP.

Some – on both left and right – hate the whole idea of trade, which they wrongly accuse of exporting jobs and hollowing out the domestic economy.

Others, mostly on the left, think TPP goes too far in entrenching property rights for pharmaceutical companies and giving new rights to foreign investors.

Others, mostly on the right, think TPP doesn’t go far enough in terms of intellectual property, tobacco and financial services.

Everyone seems to want to do something about so-called currency manipulation, except American currency manipulation of course.

But here’s the key point:  TPP, after six or more years of exhausting negotiation, represents a careful balance – not perfect by any means, but the consensus reached between the twelve parties.

TPP is not the end of the story for the quest for more effective trade rules – in some senses it is only the beginning of a much wider initiative to create a new framework for trade and investment in the Asia Pacific region.

That’s why there is so much riding on TPP and why TPP is still a good idea which will simply not go away.

Why is TPP still a good idea?

For New Zealand TPP would link us to the eleven other member economies representing 36% of the world’s GDP, markets taking over 40% of our exports and 812 million consumers.

To cut a very long story very short, the benefits of TPP would be four-fold:

  • TPP would convey measurable trade advantages for all export sectors and open up important new markets like Japan and the United States (where our competitors have better access than us).
  • TPP would put in place an updated and extensive set of rules for trade and investment which we have had a hand in making and which extend into important new areas like labour and the environment.
  • TPP would improve the climate for inward and outward investment while upholding the Government to regulate in public health, the environment and the Treaty of Waitangi.

TPP would require little policy change in New Zealand, with the major change being an extension to copyright term.

If not TPP, then what?

If we set aside the political rhetoric for a moment, we need to remember that TPP was initiated under President Bush and has been completed under President Obama.

It has not been thrust upon the American people – it has been negotiated by their representatives.

But despite the best will of President Obama the lame duck strategy may not work given the polarisation around this issue in the election campaign.

If so, then it will be for a new President and Administration to address the critical economic and foreign policy issues behind TPP.

There are three broad scenarios.

One is that TPP will be completely abandoned and the United States will turn its back on decades of American-led globalism with all the implications for its trade and foreign policy interests this implies.

The other is that there will be an attempt at re-negotiation.

This will not be easy – why should any of the TPP partners do so when they have been so grievously let down before?

It will also not be quick – it normally takes an incoming Administration the best part of  a year to appoint a US Trade Representative and other key personnel.

The last scenario is that the incoming President will make the calculation that TPP is too good to pass up and will submit the treaty to Congress.

This scenario cannot be totally dismissed but has been rejected by both Presidential candidates.

Any delay in moving forward with TPP will give rise to important shifts in global trade policy.

Other negotiations – like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP, under negotiation between 16 Asian economies including New Zealand – will take on new importance.

But equally, we cannot be confident that the outcome of RCEP would have the same high level of ambition as TPP.

Other groupings may also emerge but none of them are likely to include the United States.

The very issues and concerns that fuelled the development of TPP will undoubtedly find an outlet but this will take time – time, unfortunately, that will translate into lost opportunities.

Conclusion

What will not change is that we will need to continue to connect with the rest of the world and the rules for this engagement will remain vitally important for us.

Things may not be looking good for TPP but it is too early still to declare the battle lost.

We must continue to put to our American and other friends that turning aside from TPP would represent a significant threat to all our interests.

If TPP is not the answer, then we will be faced with the daunting task of finding other options.

Making trade not war is just a much better way of using our valuable time and resources.

No this is not a trade war!

 In this article I argue for calm when trade issues arise.

Some years ago I wrote “when elephants fight, it gets tough on the grass”.  That was when the United States under President George W Bush was blocking steel imports from New Zealand and other countries.  It took a World Trade Organisation case to sort that out eventually and in New Zealand’s favour.

This time steel is in the news again but it’s an anti-dumping complaint which our industry – or so it is alleged – is taking against steel imports from China.  The quality of imported steel has been a lot in the news but anti-dumping is not about quality – it’s about whether steel is sold under the market price in the sending country and – critically also – whether this has had an injurious effect on the domestic industry.

Dumping is notoriously difficult to prove but it is, quite legitimately, a remedy available to domestic industry when it feels it is subject to unfair competition. The processes for these complaints are defined in the WTO Anti-Dumping Code and are referenced in the NZ China FTA.  Under the FTA New Zealand is obliged to inform China when a properly constituted anti-dumping application is accepted.  There is no mystery about this – it is part of normal trade relations between countries operating within a recognised framework of international trade law.

But mystery there has been over the last week or so as the Chinese reaction to the possible New Zealand case and others launched by other countries has been the subject of speculation.  At times the mystery resembled a game of Cluedo – who spoke to whom in China and threatened a trade war?

No-one should expect the Chinese Government to have been thrilled to learn of the possibility of another anti-dumping action.  But the actions described – messages passed New Zealand exporters to China, possibly from industry rather than official sources – hardly seem to reflect a deliberate strategy with the aim of dissuading action by the New Zealand Government.  In any event the likelihood of retaliatory action has now been dismissed by the Chinese Ambassador.

There are some bigger lessons to be learnt from all this.  First, trade disputes may sometimes happen, particular when global supply and demand pressures are brought to bear.  Fortunately we have, through the WTO and our FTAs, the rules, protocols and processes to deal with them and to ensure that they do not escalate into trade wars.  That’s the chief advantage of trade agreements which detractors fail to grasp.  Rules are better, especially for smaller economies, than no rules at all.

The second lesson is that when it comes to dealing with China we need to realise that this is a big country with layers of officialdom and complex Government ties with industry, with multiple points of contact with New Zealand businesses.The random acts of individual officials do not necessarily reflect the considered policy of the Chinese Government.   This is not to say that New Zealand companies operating in China should not be alert to potential risks.  Indeed it is good to see that our leading exporters in China have people on the ground who can hear the jungle drums.  But these messages need to be seen in context.

The third lesson, and one we have learned with a number of large economies including the United States, the European Union, Indonesia and even our good friends Australia, is that we are not without protection from the WTO in the event trade disputes are not possible to solve at the bilateral level.  In these circumstances a clear head and a firm resolve are the best ways to meet challenges head on.

In the case of steel we will have to see where the anti-dumping process leads.  We should not let this cloud our judgment or our overriding interest in continuing to build a multi-faceted relationship with China which is based firmly on the rule of law and mutual respect.

 

 

 



 

 

Stephen meets Chinese Ambassador HE Wang Lutong

As Executive Director of the NZ China Council Stephen was honoured to call on Chinese Ambassador Wang Lutong.  See a readout of their meeting here.

“Friends with benefits – CER, SEM and TPP”

Stephen was pleased to address a business breakfast organised by the Australian Consulate-General, Austrade and the University of Sydney.  The subject was the economic relationship with Australia – here’s Stephen’s speech:

It’s a pleasure to be with you this morning and to join Professor Romalis from the University of Sydney and our friends at Austrade to talk about a critically important economic relationship for New Zealand.

For some years now I have played a role, on behalf of BusinessNZ, in helping co-ordinate the annual Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum, which brings together senior government, business and community representatives to foster and advance the relationship

The Leadership Forum has been meeting for twelve years now and will do so again later this year.

 The Leadership Forum has been described as a symbol of trans-Tasman “togetherness”.

 That “togetherness” is not just a sentimental thing – although sentiment is certainly part of the Anzac relationship.

 That “togetherness” is also about business, about the economic value both countries derive from their integration with one another, and increasingly, about the way in which both countries, together, can integrate with the rest of the world.

That’s why the relationship might also be described as “friends with benefits”:  this morning I’d like to talk about some of these benefits by focusing on the pillars of that economic togetherness – CER, SEM and TPP.

CER – a vision delivered

CER or to give its proper title ANZCERTA – the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations and Trade Agreement – is more than an acronym.

CER is quite simply the world’s most comprehensive trade agreement, which was signed in 1983.

It’s hard to remember what the world looked like then, but the trans-Tasman environment was certainly not the space for by and large free movement of goods, services, investment and people it has become today.

CER had a profound impact on New Zealand because it was the first step towards the liberalisation of what had become a fortress economy marked by absurd import licensing, high tariffs and even agricultural subsidies.

Of course not everything was achieved on day one, but the pace quickened notably over the years so that the deadline for the removal of quantitative restrictions and tariffs was achieved five years earlier than scheduled.

And for those who are – quite rightly – concerned that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will not achieve complete free trade by the end of the implementation period, CER at the outset was no different with dairy products excluded at the beginning.

What we have seen quite clearly is that the CER agenda has evolved over time.

The first decade was taken up with a focus on manufactured goods and agriculture.

 This included:

  •  removal of tariffs and import licensing
  • elimination of anti-dumping
  • establishment of processes and institutions for conformity assessment and quality assurance
  • development of customs and quarantine cooperation
  • provisions on government procurement.

 The second and third decade moved to a period of deeper integration leading to the development of a concept we now know as  the Single Economic Market (SEM).

 This included:

  •  focus on services, business law harmonisation, regulatory reform, investment (CER Investment Protocol)
  • further market opening for goods
  • mutual recognition of goods standards (TTMRA)
  • single food safety regime
  • new rules of origin (introduced in 2009)
  • enhanced cooperation on biosecurity and customs.

 This period has given rise to a flourishing of the trade and economic relationship and the emergence of a truly Trans-Tasman economy and of trans-Tasman enterprises better able to participate in the global supply and value chains and networks that today mark the way business is being done around the world.

 The traffic hasn’t all been one way.

Australia has been New Zealand’s top trading partner since 1989 (apart from a brief period in 2014) but New Zealand is Australia’s fifth largest trading partner.

Australian companies are our largest foreign investors with a stock of around A$100 billion.

New Zealand is the largest source of in-bound visitors to Australia.

All this didn’t happen by accident.

CER has been the result of close collaboration between governments and business and supporting networks.

As it has evolved, it is important to note that CER’s model for integration is not based on “one size fits all” – rather than adopting identical and standards on both sides, the objective has been to achieve equality of outcomes so that ultimately it becomes as easy to do business in Auckland as it is in Sydney and vice versa.

It is also true that as CER has evolved and adapted to changing economic circumstances, making progress has become more difficult, not so much because the vision is no longer there, but because as economies become more integrated, attention turns to policies and regulations that have a lot to do with national sovereignty – the focus turns from at the border to behind the border.

That’s essentially the challenge of the SEM agenda.

Where to next with SEM?

SEM is the natural consequence of CER: the goal is to create a seamless environment for business across the Tasman.

 Closely connected to the SEM goal is the concept, first elaborated by Prime Ministers Rudd and Key, of “net trans-Tasman benefit”

This requires a move beyond a narrow calculation of national economic benefit on any single issue to a balanced benefits approach across the range of areas under consideration.

Some notable applications of this principle applied to the SEM include:

  •  signature of the Closer Economic Relations Investment Protocol (February 2011) – an important advance in the bilateral economic relationship aligning CER with other modern high quality free trade agreements and facilitating investment by reducing compliance costs for investors
  • Steps aimed at making travel across the Tasman a more “domestic-like” experience, including:
    • smartGate for arrivals and departures at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch international airports;
    • biosecurity direct exit lanes at New Zealand international airports
    • the transfer of x-ray images of checked in baggage from Australian airports to MAF in New Zealand
    • joint studies looking at further streamlining of trans-Tasman travel.

One important issue which is raised regularly in the Leadership Forum but which thus far, shall we say, has “failed to capture the imagination of Australian officialdom” is the mutual recognition of imputation and franking credits.

This could provide a further boost to trans-Tasman investment well beyond the short term fiscal costs of implementation.

This one issue would do more to move the dial in the trans-Tasman economy than any other currently before us.

Both Governments remain committed to maintaining the momentum in the SEM and the broader integration project.

A report by the Joint Productivity Commissions in 2012 made some useful suggestions.

At their joint meeting earlier this year Prime Ministers Turnbull and Key urged business leaders to come up with some practical ideas.

Prime Minister Turnbull said they were looking for ideas to “help scrape the barnacles from the bottom of the boat”.

The Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum has collaboration underway in a number of sectoral areas – tourism, infrastructure, health technology, innovation and agri-business.

The aim is to come up with a series of recommendations which can be presented to the Leadership Forum later this year.

Certainly the future of CER and SEM is likely to be as much around areas of practically focused business collaboration in areas like innovation, infrastructure and investment, as in a continuing series of improvements to policy and regulation.

It is also increasingly apparent that the opportunity lies as much in third markets as it does between the two economies.

That’s where TPP comes in.

Realising the TPP opportunity

 New Zealand and Australia have been for a generation close partners in APEC established at the initiative of Prime Minister Hawke in 1989.

New Zealand and Australia are partners with ten other economies in TPP which was signed in Auckland in February and is now undergoing ratification.

New Zealand played an instrumental role in getting the TPP concept off the ground through the earlier P4 agreement concluded with Singapore, Brunei and Chile.

Australia and New Zealand had earlier explored a P5 concept with the United States, Singapore and Chile, which was overshadowed by the conclusion of the GATT Uruguay Round in 1993.

Australia and New Zealand are also working together with Asian economies in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Whether through APEC, TPP, P4, P5or RCEP both countries are seeking to develop learnings from the CER experience which can be applied more widely.

It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that goal of economic integration has been trialled in CER, wholesaled in APEC and retailed in TPP.

TPP contains many CER innovations including the concept of regulatory coherence but develops them further and applies them in a wider setting.

Like CER over thirty years ago TPP is trying to address the needs of a new economy and of businesses operating in a new environment.

The goal is for a seamless economic space across the twelve, designed to lead to a broader vision of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) which links all 21 members of APEC.

TPP goes beyond trade in goods, to trade in services, investment, innovation, the digital economy, SME concerns and even into labour and the environment.

It is a future-facing agreement, which sets a new framework for trade and investment  – that is, if it can be successfully ratified by the 12 members.

TPP can come into force only if it is ratified by economies representing 85% of the GDP of the members.

For New Zealand the stakes are incredibly high – just as they were when we signed CER.

TPP represents 36% of global GDP and over 40% of our exports.

TPP will deliver free trade arrangements with the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico and Peru with whom we do not have FTAs and extend our relationships with existing partners Malaysia and Viet Nam.

TPP has little direct impact on our existing relationships with Australia, Chile, Singapore or Brunei but adds some new commitments in specific areas.

All New Zealand export sectors stand to benefit from TPP – the impact on the beef, wine, horticulture, dairy, seafood and wood sectors is perhaps the greatest.

To implement TPP New Zealand has to make very few policy changes.

Only in the area of copyright are we required to make a major change – from 50 years after death of the author to 75 years – but this change brings us into line with Australia.

As in most other FTAs, New Zealand will provide commitments to foreign investors including investor state dispute settlement but these will not apply to Australia where the CER Investment Protocol will be the instrument governing investment between us.

Conclusion

 In signing and hopefully ratifying TPP all members are faced with a fundamental choice.

The choice is for regional economic integration, a seamless economic space and greater togetherness – which is good for business, good for security and good for development.

In CER New Zealanders and Australians have been able to see the benefits of that togetherness for over thirty years now.

CER was revolutionary at the outset but has been more evolutionary in successive stages particularly as we move to the SEM.

TPP is also revolutionary but will doubtless also in time adopt a more evolutionary path.

In that sense each new trade agreement builds on the last and makes way for the next as the economy expands and evolves under the changing nature of business.

There is something very positive about our CER togetherness.

Friends with benefits – who could want anything more?

Stephen was pleased to address a business breakfast organised by the Australian Consulate-General, Austrade and the University of Sydney.  The subject was the economic relationship with Australia – here’s Stephen’s speech:

 

TPP Unwrapped

Stephen is giving a number of addresses about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the implications for New Zealand.  See here for an address he gave in Nelson to the NZ Institute for International Affairs on 5 April. Other addresses are available on the Tradeworks website – www.tradeworks.org.nz

 

Open letter to Andrew Little, Leader, Labour Party, on TPP

 

Andrew Little MP
Leader of the Labour Party
WELLINGTON

 

Dear Andrew

Thank you for clarifying your opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) on your recent blog post “My thoughts on the TPP” [1].  In the interests of open and respectful debate, I would like to comment on the key points of your argument:

Labour is a party of free trade. This isn’t a product of the last couple of high profile trade ministers in Labour governments. It goes back the full 80 years since we first formed a government. We have always championed the cause of better access to markets and free trade.

There can be no argument with this.  I myself (as a public servant) worked directly for former Trade Minister Jim Sutton and can attest to the tough debates with the Alliance Coalition partner about the merits of free trade.  It is precisely this long history of bipartisanship, which makes some of us, both inside and outside the party, so disappointed with your decision.

The National government has handled the negotiations of the TPPA appallingly. Seven years of total secrecy have aroused natural suspicion about its contents. The government did nothing to inform New Zealanders about the negotiations, the issues, progress – anything in fact. The 6000 pages of agreement were dumped in November last year and academics, NGOs and citizens have been left to work their way through the document and form their own conclusions.

People are invariably afraid of what they don’t know and the long and tortuous negotiating process was hopeless in this regard.  The 6000 pages of text were released, together with plain language descriptions, some three months ago, much earlier for example than other FTAs.  Of course NGOs and citizens have to come to their own assessment and this has been assisted by the release of the National Interest Analysis, which provides further insight. The proper place to come to judgments about all this is in the course of the ratification process.  This is exactly what has happened with other FTAs.

The deal is worth less to New Zealand than the government touted. Extending copyright will add costs to libraries and universities. The cost of pharmaceuticals to New Zealand will rise.

The analysis of TPP has been undertaken by the same officials who advised the previous Labour Government and may advise the next.  I suggest, but agree it is a matter of debate, that the additional costs to libraries and universities arising from the copyright change is marginal at best when compared to the other benefits.  (Some in the industry are already claiming the Government’s estimation of the costs of copyright are too high).  It is not clear that the cost of pharmaceuticals will rise since there is little change to Pharmac or to the patent and data protection regime for medicines: at the end of the day the costs to individual New Zealanders are determined by Pharmac and the Government.  The Government is on record as saying these costs will not rise.  You should hold them to account for that.

An email from an acquaintance of mine, a strong pro-free trader and pro-TPPAer, suggested I ‘take note’ of the Canadian trade minister’s statement on the agreement.  The minister, Chrystia Freeland, set out how she is dealing with the TPPA – meeting with unions, businesses, NGOs and holding town hall meetings. She called for a non-partisan debate. All of which I thought was a fantastic idea and was happy to note. Still, I did wonder why my friend hadn’t also sent it to the National Party asking them to take note.

If this was me (!), the point I was making was that the Canadian Government, while having reservations about an agreement signed by its predecessor, was proceeding to sign TPP and allow the ratification debate to continue.  As I understand it you don’t want the Government to sign TPP, which will prevent the ratification debate.  Your contributions this week have been far from non-partisan. The Government has already committed itself to a process of outreach and hui around the country to discuss TPP as a prelude to the Parliamentary discussion.

I have read a lot of the TPPA myself. The free trade aspects are naturally attractive, even though the deal on dairy is hopeless, meat is a little better and the rest amounts to not much considering it is an agreement covering 800 million consumers and 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. The benefit of genuine free trade agreements is the potential to create new markets that previously didn’t exist.

I agree that the dairy aspects of TPP are not as good as they could have been and as we had hoped.  But they are in the view of the negotiators and the dairy industry the best that could have been achieved in the circumstances.  Dairy still benefits more than any other sector from tariff cuts in key markets and the establishment of new tariff quotas.  The meat deal – specifically beef to Japan – is a significant market opening about which the industry has welcomed. Without this we will not be able to compete with Australia which already has an FTA with Japan. To call the rest ‘not much’ is a serious under-estimation – tariff reductions and/or elimination for horticultural products including kiwifruit, wine, wood products and seafood cannot so easily be dismissed. Addressing tariff and non-tariff barriers for manufactured products like health technologies and agricultural equipment is also significant.  This will result in the creation of new markets as you suggest.

Two things that disturb me are, first: the restriction on New Zealand legislating to regulate land sales to non-resident foreigners (Labour’s policy is to require them to build a new house, not buy an existing one, and we would be unable to do this under the TPPA)

Labour’s clearly signaled ‘bottom-line’ for TPP was that it should provide for restrictions on land sales to non-resident foreigners.  This is possible under TPP: a future Government could if it wished apply a stamp duty or other tax to restrict these sales.  Opinion is divided on whether an outright ban could be introduced, but there is a ready alternative to meet Labour’s policy position.

And secondly the requirement to allow other TPPA countries, their citizens (including corporates) to have a say on changes to many New Zealand laws and regulations…

Constraints on law-making and opening up our political system to overseas interests is unheard of.

 TPP does provide for our partners to make their views known on any measure, which may be introduced that could have an impact on trade.  But these provisions are far from ‘unheard of’.  They are already enshrined in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other FTAs concluded by Labour including the China FTA.  They are what make it possible for New Zealand to be consulted on changes affecting our exports to other markets such as subsidies under the Farm Bill or a discriminatory labeling or levy system.  Importantly these provisions retain the right of the Government to continue to regulate: the Government may have to listen to the views of trading partners but not necessarily heed them.  Bottom line is we do this already and have been doing so for years now.

For instance we would have to let Carlos Slim, the wealthy Mexican telecom company owner, vet any regulation of our telecommunications industry.

Not quite, the Government is required to publish notice of its proposed changes as it does in the Official Gazette, but not advise everyone personally. Mr Slim may offer comment if he wishes. The Government still decides.

As a social democratic party, we have always stood for effective parliamentary democracy. That means a system that is accountable only to those who elect its representatives and which serves all citizens, not the privileged and the elite.

There is no arguing with this either. In this case it is the democratically elected Government of the day which signs and ratifies treaties.  The Parliament is invited to consider and pass the legislation, which gives effect to the Treaty’s obligations.  TPP is no different in this respect from any other treaty whether in the field of human rights, climate change or labour.  A future Government may also leave TPP after due process albeit with the loss of benefits this would entail.

I hope you will consider these points.

Yours sincerely

Stephen Jacobi

 

Under the microscope: TPP and copyright

In this article Stephen is joined by copyright expert Ken Moon of A J Park to discuss the impact of TPP’s provisions on copyright in New Zealand.

“The TPP intellectual property provisions, while a complex set of legal commitments, will not result in much change to the way things are done in New Zealand except in relation to copyright term and TPMs. This is most certainly not simply “US copyright law” has been claimed”

See the article here

TPP and Latin America

In a speech to the Latin American Business Council Stephen outlines how TPP will impact on the relationship between New Zealand and Latin America especially Chile, Mexico and Peru.

Read the speech here.