New Zealand is a trading nation. It relies on its exports of primary goods to provide for that most precious necessity, gainful employment. By extending favourable trade arrangements successive New Zealand governments have helped enrich its people, have achieved low unemployment and made the country one of the best places in the world to live.
I’ve been listening to you over the past few years, months and weeks. Last week I literally took it on the chin in defence of the TPP.
You have been accusing the Government of not opening up and giving information. So, I’d like to take the opportunity to set the record straight on a few matters.
I would like to make the point that trade access is hugely important for a small country like New Zealand. Without fair and equal trade access we can’t sell as many of our goods and we get less for them. And that means fewer jobs.
In particular, it’s about jobs in regional New Zealand and in our small farming communities like those in the Far North who are hugely dependent on whether our farmers and exporters can sell their goods. It's really hard selling meat into Japan with a 38.5% tariff on what the locals charge.
Investor state dispute resolution is hugely more likely to help New Zealand than hinder it. We already have an independent justice system that protects the legitimate activities of all sorts of companies including large multi-national ones so nothing much changes for us unless we start doing something like nationalising companies at a fraction of their value. However having an independent process might be helpful for our companies in countries where the court system is perhaps not quite as independent.
Some people who have been really loud in this debate just reject the whole concept of trade. People like Jane Kelsey would roll back the China FTA, the Korean one, the South East Asia one, any one of them. Because they just really don’t like trade for ideological reasons.
I would point out, that without the China FTA we would have been a very quiet country after the GFC. A country that would be able to afford far fewer of the medicines that some are rightly concerned about access to.
There are others who say that they support free trade, but not this deal. They try to say that this one is worse and yet can’t point to why. It was negotiated by the same fine officials that negotiated all the other deals, contains very similar clauses, and the same trade-offs.
You can’t help feeling that for those people this is about politics, not trade. Perhaps they are grumpy that their lot is not signing the deal.
There are those who say it sacrifices our sovereignty. Well, how can that be so? We have the sovereign right to withdraw from any trade agreement at any time. There is no one holding us to any of them. However there is a reason that we tend not to leave. We’d have to give up the benefits as well as the costs and so far the benefits have obviously outweighed the costs every time.
There are even those who say it’s anti-democratic; even though the current government was elected more than once on supporting the TPP, and the elected parliament has to approve the legislation. The next logical democratic test would be for the loud fence-sitters of the Labour Party to go to the next election promising to scrap the TPP, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for that one.
There are also those that are opposed to the TPP because people don’t know enough about it. What a pity then that those at Te Tii Marae didn’t take up the rare opportunity of hearing from and discussing the issue with the elected leader of our country.
I too would have been happy to have this discussion last week and indeed just had it at the Iwi Leaders meeting, before one person decided the answer was to throw her toy.
The most important point I’d want to make is the reason behind why this government is signing this deal, because every one of us cares about the future of this country. We want it to provide good jobs for our people, good security for our families, and a big enough national income that we can afford the best health care and the best education services. It is our sincere belief that this agreement will help us do that for New Zealanders.
I have been privileged to follow at close quarters the progress of this deal over many months. I think our negotiators have done a great job for New Zealand. We didn’t get everything we wanted, and nor do we ever. But the result of their work is that more Kiwis will have jobs and opportunities to bring up their families while living in this country. And that’s worth signing up for.
Will they read Steven Joyce’s open letter? Of course not. They are protest politicians. They are shrill Luddites who prefer some mythical Waiheke past to the Waiheke of tomorrow. The future is being built by the people of Waiheke without them. In the last analysis this Luddite board simply does not matter. Just like all the other TPP protesters, they are full of sound and fury signifying nothing.