It’s not surprising to see a split in Labour ranks over the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Phil Goff under Helen Clark’s government had quite a bit to do with initiating the TPPA.
Helen Clark recently said:
“What always haunts one as a New Zealand prime minister is, will there be a series of trade blocs developed that you’re not part of? Because that is unthinkable for New Zealanders, an export-oriented, small trading nation.”
“So of course New Zealand has to be in on the action with a [TPPA] and go for the very best deal it can.”
Labour leader Andrew Little has been sort of saying he opposes the TPPA, or at least parts of it, and that he would breach the agreement if it comes into force and he is Prime Minister.
One News last night (partial transcript from video, source Anthony Robins):
Labour finally confirms it’s opposed to controversial TPPA
[Little] “I don’t support it, we don’t support it”
[Little] “Very difficult as it is for us as a party that for 80 years has supported for, championed and advanced the cause of free trade, we see an agreement that cuts right across the rights of New Zealand citizens…”
[Vance] “Plus Andrew Little points to US university analysis which predicts the deal will lead to between 5,000 and 6,000 jobs lost in New Zealand by 2025. The report also estimates GDP growth of less than 0.8% again by 2025.
Grant Robertson has been sort of saying he opposes the TPPA at meetings this week that strongly oppose the TPPA signing, at least giving the impression Labour opposes the signing.
Today the Herald reports MPs break ranks on TPP.
Two senior Labour MPs have broken ranks with the party line and declared their support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), amid rumours that at least one, Phil Goff, could cross the floor of Parliament to vote with National if Labour opposes enabling legislation.
The issue was hotly debated at the Labour caucus retreat in Wairarapa this week.
Mr Goff, a former leader and former Trade Minister and now an Auckland mayoral candidate, and David Shearer, also a former Labour leader, last night told theHerald they both still supported the TPP.
It is no surprise that Goff and Shearer support the TPPA. The only slight surprise is the timing of them coming out in support.
Mr Goff said the deal should be signed.
Mr Goff did not blatantly criticise Labour’s position. But he effectively dismissed that view and the suggestion that Labour would not be able to prevent foreign investors buying New Zealand residential property.
“Every time you sign any international agreement you give away a degree of your sovereignty.” He cited the China free trade deal negotiated when he was Trade Minister.
“We gave up the sovereign right to impose tariffs against China when we signed up to the China free trade agreement. But it came with quid pro quos. China gave up its right to impose huge tariffs on us.
“That’s what an international agreement is; it’s an agreement to follow a particular course of action and a limitation on your ability to take action against the other country.
“You have the ultimate right of sovereignty that you can back out of an agreement – with all the cost that that incurs.”
That’s the realities of international agreements, something that Little and Robertson seem oblivious too, unless they are playing the different sides of the debate.
Mr Shearer told the Herald that his position on the TPP was unchanged and “certainly after reading the NIA [national interest analysis]” that was to support the deal.
Mr Shearer would not comment on whether he would cross the floor.
Little has responded:
Labour leader Andrew Little told the Herald last night that Labour would support tariff-reducing legislation but would oppose any measures if they undermined sovereignty, expressly the issue of selling houses to foreigners, and anything that allowed foreigners to have a say on New Zealand laws.
“As a caucus we don’t support the TPPA in its current form.”
Mr Little said Mr Goff had made his view known to him and to the caucus and they understood his position because he was close to the TPP.
He said the issue of crossing the floor was a matter for future discussion.
Asked if there would be any consequences for Mr Goff and Mr Shearer for supporting the TPP, he said there was an understanding about Mr Goff.
I guess the ‘understanding’ is Goff hopes to win the mayoralty later this year so Little has little control over what he says.
Goff may like to leave Parliament with a legacy of playing a significant role in enabling the TPPA.
“Anybody else in caucus, that’ll be a matter for myself and/or caucus.”
There’s likely to be others in the Labour caucus who have at least some problems with Little’s and Robertson’s stances on the TPPA.
Little was praised last year for apparently mending a split caucus, or at least keeping any differences out of public sight.
It appears that Labour have joined others in trying to use the TPPA as a wedge between National and the opposition, and also a Maori wedge.
But the wedge may end up causing a self inflicted split amongst themselves. Little has created a very difficult situation for himself and for Labour. I presume he will have seen this coming. It was inevitable.