Wednesday 13 January 2016

"Fear No Ghosts!": Little, Labour And The TPPA.

Crucial Intervention: Helen Clark's highly controversial endorsement of the TPPA struck the anti-TPPA movement like a torpedo amidships and left it dead in the water. It is now rumoured that another former Labour PM, Mike Moore, will lend his not inconsiderable advocacy skills to the promotion of the TPPA
ANDREW LITTLE has failed to make Labour’s response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) a “leadership issue”. It’s a failure that threatens not only Mr Little’s credibility, but also that of the Labour Party itself. As matters relating to the TPPA unfold over the next few weeks, it will become increasingly clear that much more is at stake here than a trade agreement.
In part, Labour’s stance on the TPPA has become a matter of protecting legacies. Labour’s embrace of free markets in the mid-1980s necessarily embraced the dogma of free trade. The 1999-2008 Labour Government’s success in negotiating the China-NZ Free Trade Agreement (China’s first with a recognisably “Western” government) is held up as its most important achievement. Certainly, Helen Clark regards the China-NZ agreement as the jewel in the crown of her political legacy.
Just how important Labour’s free trade stance is to Ms Clark became clear on 1 October 2015, in New York, when she stood alongside the National Prime Minister, John Key, and joined him in singing the praises of the TPPA. This endorsement by Ms Clark struck the anti-TPPA movement like a torpedo amidships, leaving it dead in the water.
Few New Zealanders grasped the significance of Ms Clark’s intervention. As a senior United Nations’ official, she is bound by the strictest protocols from intervening in the slightest way in the domestic politics of a member state. That she was willing to run the risk of being accused of breaching that protocol speaks volumes about how much personal and political capital she has invested in Labour’s continued adherence to free trade policies.
If Ms Clark fails in her attempt to become the United Nation’s first woman Secretary General, her intervention in New Zealand’s domestic TPPA debate may well turn out to be one of the deciding factors.
It is possible that Ms Clark may not be the only former Labour Prime Minister to enter into the TPPA debate. Rumours are rife that Mike Moore – indisputably New Zealand’s most fervent free-trade champion – is intending, his health permitting, to stump the country in favour of the TPPA. If the rumours prove to be true, then the anti-TPPA campaigners will be faced with a doughty opponent: Mr Moore’s promotional skills are legendary.
Ms Clark’s and Mr Moore’s determination to uphold Labour’s free-trade legacy will find ready allies in Labour’s parliamentary caucus. Phil Goff was this country’s leading FTA negotiator with the Chinese and he will not abandon his legacy without a fight. At his side he will likely count Annette King, Trevor Mallard, Clayton Cosgrove and David Shearer. These are not the sort of politicians a Labour leader alienates without consequences – just ask David Cunliffe!
It should be clear, from the above, that even if Mr Little does harbour doubts about the wisdom of supporting the TPPA (and that is by no means certain) he faces some pretty daunting obstacles when it comes to expressing them. He and his team of advisers have made a political fetish out of presenting a unified team to the electorate. An open and, in all likelihood, vituperative debate about the merits of opposing the TPPA runs the risk of reopening a multitude of old wounds. If disunity is death, then courting disunity must surely be political suicide?
On the other side of the debate stand those within the Labour caucus and throughout the wider party who regard the TPPA as something much more sinister than a simple trade agreement. In particular, the Investor/State Dispute Settlement Process (ISDP) contained in the agreement is seen by many New Zealanders as a mechanism for preventing the TPPA signatories from introducing economic and social measures inimical to the interests of the large, transnational corporations the TPPA appears to have been set up to serve. Not to put too fine a point upon it: the purpose of ISDP is to prevent Labour-type political parties from ever again behaving like Labour-type political parties.
The compromise position Mr Little has thrashed out with his colleagues is to reassure the electorate that a Labour-led government would “defy” the TPPA by passing legislation strictly regulating the circumstances in which New Zealand land may be sold to foreigners. Quite why the caucus has agreed to this we can only speculate, especially when a TPPA exemption to the same effect (which Australia, Malaysia and Singapore have already secured) is, apparently, ours for the asking.
The faux radicalism offered up by Mr Little and his colleagues on the question of foreign ownership in no way addresses the profound issues arising out of the TPPA’s imminent ratification  – nor is it likely to appease Labour’s critics.
At the site of an earlier rebel army’s defeat, Mao Zedong told his faltering troops to: “Fear no ghosts! The past does not return!”
Andrew Little should do the same.
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 12 January 2016.


Wayne Mapp said...

I do not believe it is credible to say that the ISDS provisions will stop a future Labour government acting like a Labour government, at least like Labour governments since 1957.

For instance a future Labour government could increase top income tax rates to say 50%. They could introduce capital gains taxes and wealth taxes. They could have a universal minimum income. They could have no fees tertiary education. They could nationalise power companies and they could not renew the Tiwai point deal. They could increase minimum wages to $20 per hour. They could embark on a major state led house building programme.

Of course they could not unilaterally increase tariffs, but WTO prevents that anyway. They could not nationalise other nation's property without compensation, but again nations can't do that anyway, and have never been able to do that without consequences.

One of the basic principles of state responsibility is that a state cannot expropriate the assets of the nationals of another country without compensation. That is what my PhD is about, specifically the Iran United States Claims Tribunal. The communist regimes of Eastern Europe had to compensate US and Western European states for their 1940's expropriations before they could borrow on western capital markets. The Saudi's paid for the Western interests in Aramco, they didn't just take them.

It is true that Labour could not have an import licencing regime such as was introduced in 1938, but who is arguing for that anyway. New Zealand would have to pull out of the WTO and the GATT commitments to do so.The cost would be that we would be frozen out of all our major markets by selective tariffs against us, so no rational New Zealand government would do that. We only got away with import licensing after GATT 1947 because the licensing regime was already in existence.

Anonymous said...

If has you say, Little has some sort of agreement with his colleagues that Labour will disregard parts of the TPPA if they become government, then I would seriously question the sanity and direction of the Labour Party leadership.

Labour and Little must show some guts and accept or reject the TPPA as policy, they cannot do as Little says without incurring to the Government and people of New Zealand countless million's in litigation costs defending their and ourselves against the legal actions bought against them by Corporations and/ or Governments in the TPPA.

The question is "am I living in a country whereby the second biggest political party is proposing sabotage against our trade partners" as an election plank to obtain government benches ?.

The answer it would seem is YES.

I feel a need to go to church and also to learn all the words of our National Anthem.

Labour has lost it, big time.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Barack Obama is a great advocate of the TPPA, as is Hillary Clinton. And both seem unwilling to comment on the trans-Canada lawsuit in the US courts at the moment, about which I posted a link a couple of columns ago. At least that gives us an idea – or will give us an idea – of what sorts of things are likely to happen. God, interesting times indeed.

Tiger Mountain said...

two feisty posts from Chris on Bowalley Road following a Labour “short line up” of Rogernomes who traipsed off to a briefing on “Groser’s Last Stand” that saw Andrew Little immediately endorse the TPPA on RNZ, rather than kick for touch until NZ Parliament ratification or US Congress Ratification, flagged this a serious issue

anything other than endorsement of Groser’s capitulation would have likely resulted in a platform for unity with the Greens and NZ First to go into the 2017 election with, that is gone and very possibly the chance of denying dear leader a 4th term–thanks again Labour

Nick J said...

Your prior column Chris questioned the relevance of the Labour Party after 100 years. The answer may be that the world changed, that industrial proletarians have both climbed into middle classdom and been automated out of existence. These megatrends also occur gradually on an imperial scale. The Anglo imperial nexus is based upon energy, first coal made Britain the world's first industrial superpower. American oil carried on the trend. Since US home production peaked the "empire" has projected force into the oil producing areas to continue imperium. This is the lifeblood of the Anglo club NZ and Labour are so keen to belong to.

I would posit that unless an alternative fuel source is discovered (and that is highly unlikely) the megatrends will be that Anglo power will diminish with the oil. Being a member will confer no benefit. Labour may find that a rising class of deautomated industrial manual workers and artisans appear that regard them as out of date dinosaurs and class enemies. TPTA style agreements wont be enforced or desired. The future may not be fun but it will be interesting.

Hi Vis. said...

The reader should study Chris Trotter's essay VERY closely. Moreover the Rt.Hon.Andrew Little and his Chief of Staff should consider it and earlier opinions by the Author with retention to the detail. Study the fail expression of the Prime Minister beside Clark on 1st October and you can see that Christmas arrived early for him. My observation is that the Opposition MUST make a stand now.
It is my objective opinion that the Labour Party follow the lead of NZ FIRST in the consistent opposition to the TPPA, just as we must not overlook the Party's position on Flag change.
I have a hunch that Andrew Little will play a " wild card " very soon. If I was him , I would let loose the " mongrel " in Cunliffe, a man NOT to be underestimated,an logical 2IC and a suitable successor. As for Ms Clark : I think she blew it and that the breach of her mandate will cost her the SG's job.

jh said...

"And I always thought what was happening in the opposition of politics (of course they would oppose National, that’s their job actually apart from everything else) but it was a bit negative about out place in the world. So we played a bit about whether people coming here was a good or bad thing whether people should invest here was a good or bad thing, or whether we have a trade agreement with parts of Asia was a good or bad thing, but actually in my mind, the reason that I want to say yes to those things is because they are the opportunities that reflect our opportunities to both get wealthier (which is all about what you can do with that money) and then ultimately the oppurtunities for Kiwis.I’d like New Zealanders to feel (after my time as Prime Minister) they have become more confident outward looking nation more multicultural."
Free trade for free movement of people (especially those with money to pay the developer)? The UN is opposed to national borders?

hj said...

Twyford's seat targeted after Chinese-names furore

Twyford targeted by ex Labour staffer
January 13th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar
No Comments...
Yeah right.
I was permanently banned for (e.g) pointing out that people who sold out to foreigners used to be hung drawn and quartered.
The gilded blogger.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Chris. Thanks.

I suspect this is just another example of Little barking at every car that passes by.

It's a party without any viable alternatives to offer other than to oppose everything the current government does. This is a sure way to stay in opposition because even if National does occasionally get things wrong, they still have a very high batting average which makes Labour's opposition to everything just plain dumb.

Little is started to look very much like Cunliffe - a careerist politician without any firm value system or vision.

Anonymous said...

Tiger Mountain:

I do not believe it is to late for Labour to announce that will reject the TPPA and make it a 'point of difference' with National at the 2017 election. Little and Labour have chosen a half-way stance which must be frustrating to the Greens and NZ First.

Unless they do,few would disagree "that is gone and very possibly the chance of denying dear leader a 4th term".

Labour is a dogs breakfast of moral and real political nous.

Gerrit said...


re the Keystone XL section of the pipeline and the court action to reclaim costs and loss of profit from the USA.

You did not mention that the pipeline had approval from the Nebraska Supreme Court and was voted to proceed by both the House of Representatives and Congress.

So here we have approvals that Obama has vetoed (suspended) without due cause and reason but mainly on political grounds.

Worth a read especially the section "Keystone XL Controversies" and the subsequent political maneuverings by both side. Add to that the connivance of environmentalist and you have a situation where possibly the only option left is to sue. Nether side is prepared to give an inch.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Gerrit: you missed the point. Whatever the politics behind it, it's perfectly constitutional for the president to veto something. It doesn't matter about the rights and the wrongs. A government is sovereign, subject only to international agreements, and even then...

Anonymous said...

Good post Chris, Labours new song instead of the "The Red Flag"

The Hokey Pokey

You put your left foot in
You take your left foot out
You put your left foot in and shake it all about
You do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around
That's what it's all about

Once again all together now.

Anonymous said...

"ANDREW LITTLE has failed to make Labour’s response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) a “leadership issue”. It’s a failure that threatens not only Mr Little’s credibility, but also that of the Labour Party itself."

Everyone understands perfectly the gravity of the TPPA but no-one understands Labour's position on it! That is the real failure of Little.

Victor said...

"Mike Moore....not inconsiderable advocacy skills"

To quote Manuel from Fawlty Towers: "Que?"

Charles E said...

I think Little is doing fine, and I'm not being facetious.
He just needs to be clear about what he means when he says he would ignore the TPPA. I think he is just referring to the populist stance of banning foreigners, (read Chinese) from buying our houses and farms. He can pass such laws and I bet there will be no legal consequences from TPPA although there may be some political price or diplomatic one. Probably just flak so he can do it safely I reckon.
A better course would be to just negotiate such restrictions within the TPPA process. It should not be an issue as many countries in it already restrict foreign land ownership.
National did not seek it as it does not believe in it as in our interest. I support that but also support Little's position, if elected as democratic and not likely to damage us.