Trade too important to be decided by public opinion?

Consultation with the public has become more important in a modern democracy such as we have in New Zealand, but a representative democracy gives the ultimate responsibility for decisions to MPs, especially Ministers. Apart from constitutional issues that is generally best.

Public opinion, and especially opinion that dominates PR and social media, may not always be right – public opinion can be formed  formed and  fought for with superficial and often distorted knowledge and information.

And popular opinion may not always support the interests of the greater good.

There can be a difference between popular opinion and populist opinion. Ongoing public pressure has resulted in an escalating prison population, but this appears to be a very costly failure.

Ordinary people may not have the depth of knowledge to understand some issues properly. Like trade.

Dominion editorial: Tinker with trade at your peril

Since Labour came to power, Trade Minister David Parker has made subtle, yet significant, changes to the way the Government communicates about trade to the public.

Rather than simply talk up the benefits of selling goods and services overseas, Parker has validated concerns by making changes, in the name of sovereignty, pledging to ban foreigners from buying residential property.

He has also offered a more sympathetic ear, even as he points out opponents are often blaming trade, when their real concern is something else, such as the inevitable change brought on by new technology.

This approach appears to have taken the heat out of the debate, allowing Parker to sign the CPTPP with little fuss from the public, something National could never have dreamed of achieving.

Parker may well have helped take the heat out of the debate, but I think there is more to the dramatic reduction in TPP opposition – Labour and the Greens were prominently involved in the TPP protests in 2016, which were as much anti-National government as anti-TPP, an obvious political ploy.

Now that Labour leads the government they obviously wouldn’t get involved in stoking protests against themselves, and the Green  opposition has been muted apart from some token protest, in part so as not to appear to be divisive of the government they are a part of.

‘Popular opinion’ is often manipulated by minority political parties for political purposes.

The benefits of trade are not necessarily understood by everyone, partly because they are simply taken for granted.

That does not mean that the direction of New Zealand’s trade policy should change in any material way.

Every year New Zealand sells tens of billions of dollars worth of goods and services around the world, boosting our material standards of living.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs are directly linked to international trade, but even that measure does not capture its significance.

Whether or not any particular New Zealander works in a trade-related industry, this trade is, to a large extent, what gives the dollars in their pockets meaning and value, especially when buying goods or services from overseas.

Parker appears keen to set stricter conditions for future trade deals, while maintaining an openly pro-trade stance.

An openly pro-trade stance may cause friction between Labour and the Greens, and also with Winston Peters and NZ First, especially now that Russian trade deal moves have been put on hold.

Provisions which would allow foreign investors to sue New Zealand overseas – provisions which are almost never used – will be out. Environmental and labour standard protection clauses may be required.

These changes are well-meaning and may be beneficial.

But what if the process becomes a debate about whether trade is beneficial?

Just because the new Labour Government has managed to take the heat out of the debate in recent months, it would be risky to assume this is a lasting peace.

Now that the Greens have a second leader again the peace may be threatened by a more left wing, more radical, less trade friendly Marama Davidson.

Overseas, the rise of Donald Trump and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union appears in no small way to be driven by anti-globalisation sentiment, exploited by populist politicians.

What if this sentiment was to catch on here?

It wouldn’t look unusual for Winston Peters to try to drive a populist anti-globalisation sentiment, but it would be could be conflicting for the Greens to oppose international corporations and non-green trade in a similar manner to Donald Trump.

Consultation has become an essential part of public process at all levels. The problem is that in some cases, the public may not deliver a well-reasoned response.

Business groups have admitted not enough has been done to prove the case for global trade to the public.

But anything resembling a public education campaign driven by corporate interests may backfire.

Parker needs to run a process which is sufficiently “comprehensive and inclusive”, without running the risk that it could end up damaging New Zealand’s economic interests.

Can Parker keep Peters and Davidson on side with this approach?

Trade may almost be said to be too important to be left to public opinion.

That’s unlikely to deter populist politicians, especially as we approach 2020 and the next election, and it’s unlikely to deter parties with significantly different ideas on trade to Labour and National.

One of the anti-TPP protest organisers was Barry Coates, who then became an MP for part of the last term, and was expected to remain an MP until the Green upheaval last campaign. He has still been working against the CPTPP.

Parker is one of the Government’s best performing ministers. But he could have a challenge promoting trade against public opinion and partner parties.

 

48 Comments

  1. David

     /  April 9, 2018

    Bit off topic and apologies but “Ongoing public pressure has resulted in an escalating prison population, but this appears to be a very costly failure”. I would call this a failure of the individual to not actually obey the law, we dont lock people up at will you actually have to have committed a relatively serious crime or be a recidivist.

  2. David

     /  April 9, 2018

    Funny given it was Parker and Co who stoked up the anti trade rhetoric ably supported by their media mates to smack National around and they were very effective at it.
    Its fairly straight forward just point to a protesters Iphone, Levis and Nikes and point out the only way you are able to buy those is because a farmer voluntarily got up at 4 am and sold his milk to jonny foreigner earning the foreign currency you use to buy some of the most amazing products on earth.
    Teaching Ricardo and comparative advantage probably a bit more of a challenge. It was always an anti National thing and the only thing that got any traction was ISDS and not trade itself.

  3. Blazer

     /  April 9, 2018

    complete nonsense…’Iphone, Levis and Nikes and point out the only way you are able to buy those is because a farmer voluntarily got up at 4 am and sold his milk to jonny foreigner earning the foreign currency you use to buy some of the most amazing products on earth.’-

    -aside from the fact that all those things are branded, over priced ‘wants’ as opposed to needs,perception about trade,Govt and benefits or otherwise are relayed to the public by the MSM,regardless of authenticity.
    As for elevating Davidsons influence,looks like mere…mischief.

    Trump is leading the isolationist,protectionist,fortress approach.One that NZ is uniquely able to withstand.

    The FIRE economy,and speculation have been the biggest growth areas in NZ for quite some time now.Fuelled by a ‘do nothing’ but regurgitate platitudes about brighter futures by the last inept administration,the new Govt will need a bold approach in coming years to get the balance of trade and overseas investment at a level that allows for the prosperity of future generations.
    David should know by now, the reality that milk contributes a mere 3.5% to GDP.Farming is a sector that atm,lives for…today.

    • David

       /  April 9, 2018

      Ok Mr Picky swap out a farmer with a wine grower/ a Xero software engineer/ someone in the tourism sector or anyone who fits into your ultra narrow approved positions who earn export dollars and swap Nike for say a life saving cancer drug from Pfizer if you must deliberately miss the bloody point. The point was point out to an objector to international trade with something they can actually relate too. SHEESH

      • Blazer

         /  April 9, 2018

        Depends which wine grower.Xero is yet to make a profit and tourism is hardly an..export.

  4. unitedtribes2

     /  April 9, 2018

    The only thing the left are good at is mobilising the forces. The truth doesn’t matter.

    • Blazer

       /  April 9, 2018

      unfortunately the forces marching off to war are the ….unfortunate,diadvantaged and downtrodden…used as cannon fodder by the rich Barons and Lords for…centuries.As for the …’truth’…’rarely pure and never ..simple’-O.W

  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  April 9, 2018

    As Rodney Hide pointed out, the only trade policy that makes sense is that NZers should be able to buy from and sell to whoever they choose.

    The rest is tax policy, not trade policy.

    • PartisanZ

       /  April 9, 2018

      Such simpleton logic may hold true in Von Mises & Rothbard Land, the fantasy ‘Never Never’ where Peter ‘Milton’ Pan flits around casting ‘free trade’ spells …

      However, in the ‘real world’ that you Righties pride yourselves on being so ‘in touch’ with, wealthy overseas people have distinct competitive advantages like sweatshop labour and genuine totalitarian governments – rather than our inverse sort – or good old fashioned tariffs & subsidies …

      In order to rectify these imbalances and truly “level the playing field” globally you’d need to have something like … a New World Order … and we don’t want that now, do we Righties?

      Trade without tax, it turns out, is very similar to a citizenry without a police force … Been there, done that, ie Hellhole of the Pacific … or a country without borders …

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  April 9, 2018

        Utter tosh. Every time you buy and sell you exercise a vote. Nothing could be more democratic.

        • PartisanZ

           /  April 9, 2018

          You actually believe that every time you buy you exercise not only a vote but a “well reasoned” vote, don’t you? Is this just because you think that’s what you do?

          Same as the people who sell, Right? It’s all well reasoned, guided by the invisible hand of rational self-interest …?

          But the easiest, cheapest, most profitable, pleasurable, compulsive-addictive or, in the case of the poor, absolutely unavoidable, is not a well reasoned vote at all … It’s not even a vote because a vote implies having a choice!

          Many people, for instance, are too poor and/or needy and/or conditioned to be able to choose food that isn’t effectively poisoning them.

          Feeling and being ‘forced’ into certain actions isn’t remotely democratic at all, no matter what Hayekian twaddle you dress it up in …

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  April 9, 2018

            Conditioned = socialist learned helplessness. As I said.

            • PartisanZ

               /  April 9, 2018

              Oh FFS … Now anyone with a degree of helplessness in their life is automatically a ‘socialist’!

              NZ’s a 100% socialist country after all!

              Your idolized and idealized ‘market’ conditions people to ever increasing helplessness in the face of their own [often infantile] wants, obsessions, addictions and perceived ‘needs’ … In both a real and metaphoric sense it plies them with sugar, salt, flavour enhancers, stimulants and preservatives …

              … and somewhere along the line the populace splits into either productive ‘consumers’ or unproductive ‘beneficiaries’ and/or ‘criminals’ …

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  April 9, 2018

              What is in their brains depends on what they have been taught by family, friends and schools. Not what is in their shop.

    • Blazer

       /  April 9, 2018

      Hide doesn’t understand ,it takes 2 to….

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  April 9, 2018

        Socialists don’t tolerate people making their own free choices. They really hate that.

        • Blazer

           /  April 9, 2018

          you live in a very black and white world..Al…what happened to the old compassionate…Al?

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  April 9, 2018

            I’ve never been compassionate towards socialist control freaks.

  6. PartisanZ

     /  April 9, 2018

    “Consultation has become an essential part of public process at all levels” … Yeah, Right …

    “The problem is that in some cases, the public may not deliver a well-reasoned response” …

    So clearly consultation has not become essential at all levels and the public are dumb, especially when it comes to trade …

    “Business groups have admitted not enough has been done to prove the case for global trade to the public”

    … and they should know because, apart from ‘business groups’ being unquestionably “well reasoned” themselves – goes without saying – they’ve induced, purchased or blackmailed the governments who have instituted globalisation anyhow, regardless of the public … for the public’s “own good” … because “There Is No Alternative” …

    “But anything resembling a public education campaign driven by corporate interests may backfire”

    … Well, yes, I suppose there’s the remotest possibility of back-fire or even back-lash … although hardly any of state-corporate-capitalism’s “public education campaigns” have failed in the past … no real reason to think they won’t succeed yet again … The sophistry is breathtaking …

    “Public education campaigns” … FFS, doesn’t anyone see the fucken language we’re using here? It’s the language of Totalitarianism … Inverse Totalitarianism …

    “Well reasoned”? Theoretical example: The public of let’s say Kaikohe (or pick any provincial centre) may have ‘well reasoned’ they DID NOT want globalisation to destroy their local industries and employment and then install a Warehouse and later Bunnings to eviscerate their mainstreet family businesses …

    Yep … the ‘public’ has got to be avoided at all costs in a democracy!

    “Ongoing public pressure has resulted in an escalating prison population, but this appears to be a very costly failure.”

    Well, possibly? Or alternatively – Ongoing public pressure has conveniently resulted in an escalating prison population, and this has become a very profitable ‘human failure’ industry.

    • Gezza

       /  April 9, 2018

      Wrecked it with the last stupid para.

      • Gezza

         /  April 9, 2018

        The rest of it was pretty good.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  April 9, 2018

          B.s.

          • Gezza

             /  April 9, 2018

            Apart from his last para which wanders into “oh they just create criminals to make a profit from them” territory – which parts do you disagree with and why? Otherwise why bother posting B.s – go and do laundry or something useful.

            (Quick tangent, got Comodo Firewall & Avast Antivirus & Firefox all installed and working on me music XP system late last night after many tribulations. Pitiful to watch it struggle to do anything. Will uninstall everything except the bare minimum functionality for music processing this evening)

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  April 9, 2018

              HFD is on the ball below. Most of the public have gone thru 13 years of public miseducation by career socialist bureaucracies. Those fortunate enough to have business savvy parents survive the experience but most don’t and become supine victims of socialist helplessness. They elect politicans who reinforce their misconceptions. The evidence is all around us.

    • High Flying Duck

       /  April 9, 2018

      That is a truly ignorant diatribe there Parti.
      inefficiencies and high prices should be the go, because “family businesses”? Harken to the good ole days perhaps?
      The evidence that global trade is a good thing is overwhelming. It is seen in rising living standards all over the world, And contrary to popularist politicking from the left, the regions in NZ are thriving. Manufacturing in NZ is thriving. The tech sector is thriving.
      NZ is a far better place because it has opened access to the world.
      One thing I do agree with – Public Education Campaigns are symptomatic of state interference. But the sheer ineffectiveness of pretty much any government communication efforts puts paid to any thoughts of totalitarianism.

      • Blazer

         /  April 9, 2018

        NZ has abundant fish-snapper=$38.95 kilo,NZ has abundant butter=500gms-$6,NZ has abundant pine=$8 p.l.m ,NZ has abundant ,honey=$18- 500gms,NZ has abundant land=!#*^*…seem like rather high prices…rather..

        • Gezza

           /  April 9, 2018

          The butter price is understandable. How else were they going to pay Theo?

          • High Flying Duck

             /  April 9, 2018

            Hard to know what to make of Theos’ salary. It was apparently benchmarked against 24 equivalent sized companies in Australia. Fonterra has a $17B turnover per annum, so it’s a bloody big enterprise.
            Theos was focused on the ‘value add’ side of the business, which is now growing at over 20% per annum and turning over $2B PA with a goal of reaching $5B by 2021.
            In that context his salary could be well justified.

            • Gezza

               /  April 9, 2018

              No salary that high is justified. Comparing his to other unjustifiable salaries cuts no ice with me.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  April 9, 2018

              If (and it is a BIG if in this case) he has personally been responsible for high growth in value added product growth for Fonterra that will add billions to their bottom line, and flow through to the farming shareholder do you still not see the salary as worthwhile?
              I am dead against extreme salaries where there is little tangible proof of gains made, but for those who are capable of and achieve transformative and lasting change, such salaries are eminently worthwhile in terms of benefits to the owners.
              Rod Drury was worth every cent he was paid to take Xero to where it currently sits.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  April 9, 2018

              Fonterra – just another monopoly created by a socialist government.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  April 9, 2018

              You mean David Cunliffe’s finest work, in between inventing the internet and feeling remorseful for having a penis.

            • Blazer

               /  April 9, 2018

              It can’t be justified by any measure…hence his departure.

            • Blazer

               /  April 9, 2018

              @Al….a monopoly is the wet dream of…Capitalism…you have N.F.I, Al.

            • Blazer

               /  April 9, 2018

              ‘Rod Drury was worth every cent he was paid to take Xero to where it currently sits.’…like to see it make a profit.Now has no USP,and Drury has moved it to the ASX ,cashed up $100 mil of his shares and signalled his withdrawal from the executive oversight of the day to day operations of the company.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  April 9, 2018

              @B, capitalists have two routes to a monopoly; a) do a wonderful job for their customers, or b) get a socialist/facist government to do it for them.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  April 9, 2018

              Blazer, while monopolies can be the result of capitalism, where one company gains an excessive advantage over all others, and it may be the goal of some greedy capitalists, capitalism itself relies on competition. Monopolies are anathema to capitalism. They are endemic to socialism.
              In the current world, companoies that appear to be reaching monopoly status are being cut down to size – microsoft were once untouchable, not now, Facebook was a behemoth but how the mighty fall. Amazon is still looking very strong, but something will arise to challenge.
              Without competition companies become lazy and inefficient as they have no need to be otherwise. This is when competitors or substitutions emerge.

            • Blazer

               /  April 9, 2018

              @HFD…how come there is only one Momopolies Commission in the U.K…then?

        • High Flying Duck

           /  April 9, 2018

          You want fish, go fishing. For the honey, blame Varroa, pine IS cheap…hardwoods however not so much. Butter moves on the world market and land is cheap if you move to the regions.
          When you stop cherry picking, overall most things have become better quality for less money over time and what is considered poor these days was positively middle class in the 70’s.

          • Blazer

             /  April 9, 2018

            so living in your car but wearing Levis and Nikes and having an IPhone is a sign of…progress in a world of ..plenty.Very good…ducky.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  April 9, 2018

              Perhaps, if that is happening people should look at what they are spending their money on…

            • Blazer

               /  April 10, 2018

              @HFD…good to see you believe in self sufficiency…if you want a lettuce…grow one,if you want a jersey…knit one.

  7. Blazer

     /  April 9, 2018

    apparantly people are spending too much on…coffee,that’s why they can’t afford a…house.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  April 9, 2018

      By the time Labour has finished regulating they won’t be able to afford coffee either: Minimum Wage Rises Hit Coffee Prices.

    • Gezza

       /  April 9, 2018

      It’s apparEntly. Not meaning to offend, but you always misspell it & you might as well get it right in future.

  8. The reason the people of Britain voted to leave the EU was because enough of them finally woke up to the fact that they had no control whatsoever over those who made their ever-encroaching and spiralling-out-of-control laws. They were, by any realistic definition, living in a totalitarian state.

    Even the over-paid members of the European ‘Parliament’, ostensibly elected by the people, have in truth little more power than the waiters in a Mafia boss’s cafe – who at least might be allowed to decide which napkins to use. The EU is a power-crazed, deceitful affront to democracy.

    It may have been readily accepted by the Europeans – who have never known real freedom, due to Napoleon asserting that the people should serve the State – but the Britons – who HAVE known freedom, thanks to The Great Charter asserting the opposite – had to be tricked and lied to in order to join it. But eventually enough became enough.

    • PartisanZ

       /  April 9, 2018

      Interesting how the referendum-based decision for Britain to exit the EU is constantly being portrayed as such a terrible thing for democracy, isn’t it?

      And how it’s lumped together as ‘populism’ along with the election of Donald Trump.

      I’ve never understood what the two have in common?

      One is a triumph for ‘direct democracy’, the other an abject failure of indirect democracy.