Thursday 30 July 2015

How Smart Is Tim Groser? Will We End Up Panning Or Praising New Zealand's Trade Minister?

Diplomatic Genius, Or Corporate Minion? From its humble origins as a modest New Zealand trade initiative, the TPPA has always been viewed by Tim Groser (above) as the Kiwi sprat to catch an American mackerel. New Zealand corporates just ain't that clever!
TIM GROSER may be a lot smarter than even his most fervent supporters claim. It’s just possible that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) – as currently drafted – is the document he had in mind all along. That, from its humble origins as a modest New Zealand trade initiative, the TPPA was always viewed by Groser as the sprat to catch a giant USA mackerel.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear there was never the slightest chance that the United States was ever going to sit back and let a handful of small Pacific states set up a free-trade zone from which it was excluded. As a pretty shrewd geopolitician, Groser would also have realised that, as the US slowly disengaged from its military entanglements in the Middle East, there was a very high probability that its struggle with China in the Pacific – disrupted by 9/11 and all that it inspired – would be resumed.

A comprehensive free-trade agreement, including an increasingly apprehensive Japan – but  excluding the Peoples Republic of China – was an obvious “next move” for a United States determined to reassert its hegemony over the nations of the Pacific Rim. It was also an obvious “next move” for New Zealand, whose economic fortunes were, to a potentially dangerous degree, becoming entwined with those of its principal protector’s principal rival.
The plausibility of this argument depends entirely on how skilled at playing geopolitical chess you are willing to believe this country’s diplomats and trade envoys truly are.
Who was it, for example, who initiated the process which led to the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA): New Zealand or China?
This country’s preference, for at least the past two decades, has been an FTA with the United States. Was it the latter’s refusal to negotiate seriously (i.e. to commit to the liberalisation of its agricultural sector) that persuaded the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to focus its attention, instead, on the Chinese? Because, in addition to boosting our exports, the New Zealand-China FTA also provided our diplomats with the precious bonus of just a little leverage vis-à-vis our “very, very, very good” friends in Washington. Groser, himself, is at pains to reassure anybody who asks, that should the TPPA negotiations fall through, New Zealand will not be left without options. Sceptics are invited to ponder the significance of New Zealand’s early decision to join the Chinese-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Could Tim Groser and his colleagues at MFAT really be so smart? Is it possible that, sometime in the next few days, New Zealand will put its signature to a document that gives its key exporters the best of both worlds? Not only a vastly rewarding economic relationship with the second most powerful economic entity on the planet; but also the long-sought and much-desired prize of a free-trade agreement with the world’s mightiest nation? Well, yes, it is possible. And, if it happens, Tim Groser’s much anticipated appointment as this country’s next ambassador to the United States will have been well-earned.
From Washington, Groser will be supremely well-positioned to judge just how serious the developing struggle between the US Eagle and Chinese Dragon has become. With the TPPA in place, he will, of course, be free to choose between these two heraldic beasts. Free access for New Zealand’s agricultural exports to all the markets of the Pacific Rim – especially those of the USA, Canada and Japan – will mean that if push eventually comes to shove, New Zealand’s economic eggs will not be concentrated in the basket labelled “Made in China”.
A Peoples Republic of China beset by crashing stock markets and a rapidly slowing pace of economic growth will soon be faced with even greater difficulties. Constant economic expansion has been utterly crucial to the Communist Party of China’s ability to keep its population, if not happy, then at least quiescent. Mass unemployment, sharpened by the mass impoverishment of China’s rural and urban stock market investors, could very easily panic China’s leaders into a series of ultra-nationalist distractions in the South China Sea or along the Sino-Indian border. Very quickly, having all our economic (and most of our diplomatic) eggs in a single Chinese basket could prove to be very awkward.
Many New Zealanders are fearful of the TPPA. They worry about the future of Pharmac and are alarmed at the prospect of becoming enmeshed in the coils of the Investor State Dispute Settlement process. While these are by no means insignificant issues, there are much greater dangers out there that we would be most unwise to ignore. Looking back, we may yet have cause to feel relieved that the TPPA was wound up in July-August 2015. And even those on the left of New Zealand politics may feel just a little bit thankful that Tim Groser was where he was, when he was.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 29 July 2015.


Tiger Mountain said...

a classic example of the loneliness of the “long distance column writer”

a good indicator of future behaviour is annoyingly enough for some, past behaviour, in between pummeling mini bars Groser is “very, very, very” unlikely to favour our nation state above the TPP pirates charter

Guerilla Surgeon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Victor said...

Do I detect some winged porkines fluttering midst the American eagles and Chinese dragons?

Sam said...

I think Chris gives Mr Groser too much credit.
On the one hand our industry is expected to compete with China's slave wages, terrible employment conditions and lack of environmental protection. We shouldn't want to do this.
On the other the US is looking for the TPPA to protect it's industry, film, big pharma evergreening their patents etc.
The free trade agreements are actually the opposite of free trade, experience has proven them to be of little benefit. Is the dairy boom really related to the FTA with China? It started long before.
The closing down of NZ industry is real and ongoing.
I am skeptical that a tiny country like NZ can extract any serious concessions from China or the US and I think we continue to sacrifice a lot on the altar of free trade genuinely believing the BS while the larger countries realise that when they say free trade what they mean is protection for big business.
As always left and right is irrelevant.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The world's largest economy is according to some, now China. Or depending on whether you counted as a single economy, the European Union. Unless it gets rid of this neoliberal bullshit, America is going to fall further and further behind. Its infrastructure is crap. I can't be bothered going back to look, but I think the figure is something like 200+ billion dollars a year to bring it up to scratch. The market doesn't take care of this until it's too late :-). On the other hand China is building high-speed rail, from Beijing to Western Europe. And outside of Britain, European infrastructure seems reasonably sound. Mind you, the Europeans subsidise their agriculture as well.

Anonymous said...

I do not believe that the National government or Mr Groser are in these negotiations to sell NZ out, if it was Labour and Mr Twyford representing us then I believe they would sell us out based on the Labour goverment's free trade agreement with China in 2008. That's when the Labour government sold our Sovereignty.

pat said...

I suspect that you Chris know more about Tim Grosser and the senior staff at MFAT and as interesting as your theory is I find it difficult to credit any of our politicians or public servants planning and implementing a 20 year strategy.

Anonymous said...

If Tim Groser was a union negotiator his members would sack him for his imcompetence at the TPPA bargaining table. Being clever does not mean he is not a dangerous fool.

Geoff said...

Hopefully, closer to the mark than many rabid detractors analyses ! A perfect position to play both sides.

Anonymous said...

For all the soothsaying, nay saying, and pronouncements of doom stated by many on the left in relation to this TPP agreement, the thing is no one actually knows yet what its final form will be.

I suggest to all those who are banging on Key's head over this is to wait.

If when the final agreement comes out it shows that NZ becomes the 51st state of the USA then feel free to cry a river.

If however the end result gives a big boost to the long term prosperity of NZ inc then this will set back the cause of the left immeasurably as voters aren't stupid.

They know a good deal vs a dud and will vote accordingly.


Sam said...

Just trust John Key LOL, once it is signed we can't change it.
Nothing to do with left and right sheeple.
Here is federated farmers backing up my view.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It's not going to happen soon. I noticed the Canadian farmer representative in Hawaii this morning explaining how they needed to protect their dairy industry. Incidentally, how come farmers get to go but union representatives don't? That aside, it's typical right-wing bullshit. Competition is great until were outcompeted, subsidies are crap unless its us that being subsidised. I just wished for once they'd stick to their supposed philosophy and stop being so hypocritical.

Davo Stevens said...

Oh dear Jimmie, you poor naive fella, once it's signed off we can't get out of it without it costing us millions. The question is why the secrecy? That implies that there is something to hide.

Key's story has changed consistently since it started and he is still dancing around. Tim Groser is as slippery as a wet eel and he is vying for a cushy job in Washington or London.

First John Key said that Meds would not cost more now he says that they will but the Govt. will pick up the tab (the Govt. is we taxpayers). They have consistently under-funded Pharmac for the last 5 years, so they will pay the extra? Pigs may fly but they make very unlikely birds!

pat said...

so Jimmie, we sign blind and damn the torpedos ?..and get out the plastic bag if its the dog it smells like.

Anonymous said...

No it still has to be ratified by Parliament. If its a doozy you can bet Dunne and back bench Nats wont vote for it.


Davo Stevens said...

The Herald today has an interesting piece on this very subject:

greywarbler said...

The Herald on TPPA by Dite De Boni was published on line on Friday July 21.
First comment at 10.50 am and at 14.50 pm comments are closed with 123 comments, the first of which were positive about Ms De Boni's satirical piece! (I don't know what time it was published - perhaps the time is when the link is made by reader.)

And your piece Chris is a lovely little positive piece, you have swept the floor for all the good news editing bits, pieced them together and everythuing could turn out so well. I can't help thinking that the same tone was probably taken when Roger and his Merrie Knights started to feed us the Milton Myths and Randian Raves. That didn't turn out so well did it, as we sink back into class-ridden, deserving-undeserving cold charity and poverty-preaching - so 19th century, but with drones, tazers, and automated clones of real-life cold marble administrators who will be praising good business propositions soon where you have good trades at every port, slaves, sugar, rum all in demand and profitable. Sh.t!

I suggest Chris that you now give us an imaginative scenario of how we would manage if we didn't join TPPA but dropped out of the deal that others signed up to. Neither outcome, in or out, is going to be good for we NZers, in the main. Only the Jolly Rogers will triumph on the bounding main. The rest of us will have to learn how to make a flourbag sack out of a sow's ear and a pig tale.

pat said...

Jimmie your faith in Dunne and the Nat back bench is alarming...given him of the hair's independence appears sadly compromised and given the quality (?) of the National front bench...hell, any party that ranks Brownlee number three is desperately short on ability.