First CPTPP Commission meeting agrees on expanding trade

The first meeting of the Commission of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) has agreed on provisions to expand the trade agreement.

Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker – CPTPP meeting agrees guidelines to expand trade agreement

The first Commission meeting of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) has reached agreement on guidelines to expand the trade agreement.

Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker welcomed the agreement on accession procedures – one of the decisions made by the 11 signatories at the first Commission meeting held in Tokyo today.

“New Zealand has always supported the concept of CPTPP as an open accession agreement, having been part of the original P4 agreement alongside Brunei, Chile, and Singapore.

“It was very pleasing to see CPTPP come to fruition with its entry-into-force at the end of December. I welcome the idea that those willing to meet CPTPP’s high standards and objectives are now able to join the Agreement over time,” David Parker said.

“I do not expect formal applications in the near future, but we look forward to continuing discussions with interested economies on the basis of these guidelines.

“In the meantime, I look forward to seeing the remaining signatories complete their domestic processes and join the seven who have ratified the Agreement to date.”

The TPP was timely given the uncertainty over trade with Britain and the EU (Jacinda Ardern is in London trying to talk trade today, before doing likewise with the EU this week), and also the trade turmoil surrounding Donald Trump (who withdrew the US from the TPP).

Parker is Labour’s most experienced Cabinet Minister and one of their better performers.

There’s some irony in Parker’s promotion of the TPP after Labour’s opposing of it when in Opposition (or at least appearing to oppose it by opposing some parts of it).

The world is actually becoming a better place

Despite a lot of bad news and dire predictions NZ Herald repeats a story from The Conversation on Seven charts that show the world is actually becoming a better place.

Obviously that means better for people overall, there are some who have had a deterioration in their situations, like in Syria and Yemen (wars are always crap for people, but there are fewer and smaller wars these days).

Of course this doesn’t look intoo the future and what may happen through things like over-population, pollution, depletion of resources and climate change.

Swedish academic Hans Rosling has identified a worrying trend: not only do many people across advanced economies have no idea that the world is becoming a much better place, but they actually even think the opposite. This is no wonder, when the news focuses on reporting catastrophes, terrorist attacks, wars and famines.

Who wants to hear about the fact that every day some 200,000 people around the world are lifted above the US$2-a-day poverty line? Or that more than 300,000 people a day get access to electricity and clean water for the first time every day?

These stories of people in low-income countries simply doesn’t make for exciting news coverage. But, as Rosling pointed out in his book Factfulness, it’s important to put all the bad news in perspective, reports The Conversation.

While it is true that globalisation has put some downward pressure on middle-class wagesin advanced economies in recent decades, it has also helped lift hundreds of millions of people above the global poverty line – a development that has mostly occurred in South-East Asia.

one of the big facts of economic history is that until quite recently a significant part of the world population has lived under quite miserable conditions – and this has been true throughout most of human history. The following seven charts show how the world has become a much better place compared to just a few decades ago.

I won’t include the charts here but this is what they claim:

1. Life expectancy continues to rise.

During the Industrial Revolution, average life expectancy across European countries did not exceed around 35 years. Now it is getting close to 80. It has risen to over 70 in most other parts of the world, except Africa but even there it is on the rise and now over 60.

2. Child mortality continues to fall

More than a century ago, child mortality rates were still exceeding 10% (and were much higher than that 200 years ago). This halved overall, and for many parts of the world it is close to 1%.

3. Fertility rates are falling

 UN population estimates largely expect the global population to stabilise at about 11 billion by the end of this century.

That’s still a lot more than the current population of about 7.5 billion.

4. GDP growth has accelerated in developed countries.

Low-income countries, including China and India, have been growing at a significantly faster pace in recent decades and are quickly catching up to the West. A 10% growth rate over a prolonged period means that income levels double roughly every seven years. It is obviously good news if prosperity is more shared across the globe.

5. Global income inequality has gone down

While inequality within countries has gone up as a result of globalisation, global inequality has been on a steady downward trend for several decades. This is mostly a result of developing countries such as China and India where hundreds of millions of people have seen their living standards improve.

6. More people are living in democracies

As of today, about half of the human population is living in a democracy. Out of those still living in autocracies, 90% are in China.

7. Conflicts are on the decline

Throughout history, the world has been riven by conflict. In fact, at least two of the world’s largest powers have been at war with each other more than 50% of the time since about 1500.

While the early 20th century was especially brutal with two world wars in rapid succession, the postwar period has been very peaceful. For the first time ever, there has been no war or conflict in Western Europe in about three generations.

All of these indicators are positive for us here in New Zealand. We live in the best of times ever in human existence, in one of the most human friendly parts of the world. We have a lot to be thankful for, but shouldn’t be complacent about future challenges.

National’s Upston criticised for ‘soft on benefit sanctions’ claim

Kay Brereton from the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation has hit back against National’s Social Development spokesperson  saying “the Government going soft on benefit sanctions, saying it was sad when parties seek to punish people with ‘inadequate incomes’.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni: ““MSD has made significant shifts in its service delivery over the last year to improve its service culture and ensure that people are getting the support they are entitled to and that they are not unfairly sanctioned”

Louise Upston (National): “The number of people claiming the job seeker benefit has increased by 11,000 because the Government is going soft on benefit sanctions and those who don’t want to work”.

Ensuring people get benefits and assistance they are entitled to has been an issue for some time. There has also been obvious philosophical differences between National and other parties over whether benefits shouldn’t be difficult to get, that they should be more of a choice for those who feel they need assistance. National opposes benefits being a sort of lifestyle choice.

Carmel Sepuloni:  Benefit rates remain low

The total proportion of working age people on a main benefit is 9.9% compared to 9.8% in the December quarter last year.

Rates on main benefit are different from the official unemployment rate, which was last recorded at 3.9 percent, down from 4.7 percent at the same time the previous year.

“The latest benefit figures show that more people who are applying for hardship assistance are getting it. The need has been there for years but under this Government people know where to go when they need support.

“This has seen a rise in the level of hardship assistance being given, particularly food grants and emergency housing grants.

“MSD has made significant shifts in its service delivery over the last year to improve its service culture and ensure that people are getting the support they are entitled to and that they are not unfairly sanctioned, driving them and their families into further poverty.”

Louise Upston (National MP):  Benefits up as Govt makes it easier to do nothing

The number of people claiming the job seeker benefit has increased by 11,000 because the Government is going soft on benefit sanctions and those who don’t want to work, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.

“Over the past year there has been a 42 per cent decline in the number of people who have been sanctioned for failing to meet the basic criteria which goes with receiving taxpayer’s money. That includes simply turning up to appointments.

“Given that unemployment has decreased, it’s inexplicable that the number of people on a jobseeker benefit would increase so rapidly and that the Government would make it easier for people to avoid work.

“The Minister needs to explain why so many more people are lining up for benefit, while at the same time there aren’t enough people to plant Shane Jones’ ‘billion’ trees or to pick fruit from our orchards.

“For the past ten years the total number of people on benefit has been decreasing because the National Government was focused on creating jobs and getting people into work, and making sure people met their obligations.

“Now for the first time in a decade with unemployment at record lows the number of people on benefits has increased rapidly – by more than 9000.

“It’s especially disappointing to see that the number of 18-24 year-olds receiving a benefit has increased by 10 per cent. It’s this age group which needs the most encouraging to get into work to avoid a lifetime of benefit dependency.

“National is aspirational for all New Zealanders. We believe that people deserve a fair go, but not a free ride. Employment is the best way to lift families out of poverty.”

National have a hard line ‘tough but fair’ approach that is quite different to the softer ‘more compassionate’ approach of the current Government.

About 134,000 people are receiving jobseeker support, an 8.3 percent jump from last year.

About 8500 sanctions were applied in the December 2018 quarter, a decrease of more than 6000 compared to the previous year.

1 News: Advocate hits back over National’s call for more benefit sanctions

Kay Brereton from the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation says it is sad when political parties seek to punish a certain percentage of people with inadequate income.

the easing of disciplinary action is being applauded by Kay Brereton from the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation.

Ms Brereton said she knew of people who had been docked for not attending an appointment, because they were at their part-time job.

The increase in people on the jobseeker benefit might be because more people were now being deemed eligible, she said.

She said it was sad political parties thought a certain percentage of those with inadequate income should be punished.

Some see limits to what assistance can be obtained, and inadequate assistance (not enough money), as punishment. Greens have gone as far as advocated for a virtual no questions asked approach to giving out benefits and grants.

National’s ‘firm, fair’ approach is seen by some as unfair and even draconian, but al they can do from Opposition is complain about the easing up on sanctions against people who appear (to some) to choose a benefit over work.

There has to be a balance between providing state care, assistance and money but encouraging people to be responsible for their own financial situations and earning money for themselves. There continues to be a significant difference between National’s tougher approach and the current Government’s more lenient leanings.

Lime scooter introduction has had mixed response

Since the introduction Lime scooters were launched in Dunedin 10 days ago there has been a lot of free publicity for a commercial enterprise, but not all of it has been good.

It is now common to see clutters of scooters cluttering footpaths in the mornings, but they get scattered during the day. Out and about yesterday there were quite a few being used.

There has been some stupidity. It only took a day for someone to try one down Baldwin Street – I didn’t see it explained how they got it up. The electric scooters don’t do well on hills. I saw someone having to push one up London Street (just off George Street) after giving up trying to power up. There’s a lot of hills in Dunedin, but there’s quite a bit of flat too, especially around the CBD and University and Polytech campuses.

There have been reports of a steady stream of injured riders going to the Emergency Department. This isn’t surprising. I haven’t seen anyone wearing a helmet, and I saw someone riding one wearing jandals, so feet are obviously at risk.

There has been one serious accident that has raised serious questions. An international student was knocked off a scooter by a truck in the early hours of Friday morning – Scooter rider out of surgery, remains serious.

There has been an unconfirmed report that the scooter went through a red light, but regardless of that questions are being asked about being able to use one at night, the scooters don’t have lights and are supposed to be taken off the road at night.

ODT:  Don’t ‘demonise’ Lime scooters over crash – Bidrose

An investigation is ongoing, but the ODT has been told the woman rode through a red light at the intersection and into the path of the truck.

A police spokeswoman would not confirm that, saying the Serious Crash Unit had examined the scene but “we are not able to speculate on the cause of the crash while the investigation is ongoing”.

Lime also refused to answer specific questions about why the scooter was on the street at that hour of the morning.

The company signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Dunedin City Council that included a requirement for scooters to be removed from public places each evening.

The ODT understands “juicers” — those who collect and charge the battery-powered vehicles — have been told to collect scooters needing charging from 9 o’clock every evening.

All other scooters were to be off the streets by midnight, and were not to be returned again until the following morning.

There have been inevitable reports of pedestrian clashes with scooters on footpaths. This has also been an issue in other places where the scooters have been introduced. And this has prompted calls for speed restrictions.

Stuff:  Government looks set to impose 10kmh Lime scooter speed limit

Work is under way on law changes that will impose a 10kmh speed limit for Lime electric scooters, with the Government set to consult on the new rules early this year.

But the scooters soon became a topic of controversy, with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff ordering an urgent scooter safety report in October after councillor Christine Fletcher was almost hit by a rider.

Goff later raised safety concerns with Transport Minister Phil Twyford. In his letter, he asked that the Ministry of Transport instruct police to pull up “dangerous scooter use” and raised the possibility of a e-scooter speed limit.

Stuff has been provided with a copy of Twyford’s response.

It shows the Government is considering a package of law changes called Accessible Streets, which aim to increase the safety of all users on the footpath.

“Among the proposed measures is a proposed maximum speed limit for all vehicles that are allowed on the footpath,” Twyford wrote.

“I expect that this package will be ready for consultation in early 2019.”

A spokeswoman for duty minister Grant Robertson said the maximum speed limit proposed under Accessible Streets was 10kmh.

If implemented, the limit would apply to Lime scooters being used on the footpath, she said.

A spokesman for Goff said the mayor would like to hear from the public on what speed would be appropriate.

10 kmh seems too over the top, I can walk that fast.

I don’t know how they could be just limited to that on footpaths. A blanket 10 kmh limit would possibly stuff the market for Lime.

A speed limit along with compulsory helmet wearing would be more of an issue. And what about requiring safe footwear, and even knee, elbow and hand protection? Scooters could easily be regulated out of contention as a viable transport alternative.

Like anything new the Lime scooters in Dunedin have received a mixed reception. They could be a good thing, but are not without their problems.

 

 

 

World view – Sunday

Saturay GMT

WorldWatch2

For posting on events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.

Diet debate – for personal and planet health

Much less meat, much less dairy – I’m hearing this a bit now. It is supposed to be better for personal health as well as being better for the planet, but it also has serious implications for a country reliant a lot on it’s meat and dairy production.

There has long been debate about diets for personal health, ranging from money-making fads to common sense. There is now growing debate about changing personal diets for the good of the planet.

Newstalk ZB:  New diet hailed as ‘life-saving’ but comes with a catch

That’s a stupid headline.  There have been so many diet variations promoted over the years ‘new diet’ needs to be taken with a grain of wheat. Or rice, as long as it is not processed.

‘Life-saving’ is a meaningless claim – any diet could enhance your chances iof continuing to live, or not. Supposedly life enhancing and life saving diets have been dished up and debunked for decades.

A new diet is being hailed as “life-saving” by experts, but there’s a catch…you can only eat red meat once a week.

There’s another catch – ‘experts’ have a wide variety of opinions on diets.

That’s as much red meat people should eat to do what’s best for their health and the planet, according to a report seeking to overhaul the world’s diet.

The report from a panel of nutrition, agriculture and environmental experts recommends a plant-based diet, based on previously published studies that have linked red meat to increased risk of health problems. It also comes amid recent studies of how eating habits affect the environment. Producing red meat takes up land and feed to raise cattle, which also emit the greenhouse gas methane.

Associate professor at Massey Universty, Carol Wham, told Tim Dower this will be a real reality check for people.

“What it is doing is saying globally this is what we might need to reach by the year 2050.”

“For us in New Zealand, it’s about moderating our meat, it’s about primarily reducing excessive consumption and what it says instead, is that we need to double our consumption of fruit, vegetables [and] things like legumes and nuts which we really eat insufficient amounts of.”

“Our dietary fibre intakes are woefully low so eating a more plant-based diet has huge benefits for us.”

She said it’s all about “moderation over time” and getting creative with how you cook.

Moderation is generally good advice with diets – whatever diet you follow. But you don’t need to be creative – often simple food is as good as anything.

Wham said while New Zealand isn’t the focus of the study, it’s still important we do our bit.

“This is just looking globally at what it has to look like if we are going to have a sustainable system in the future and health of people and the planet.”

“We can’t keep going the way we are, we have got such an epidemic of obesity. In the US for example, they produced twice the amount of food than they need to eat.”

But there are a lot of variabilities with diets with personal preferences, seasonal and in different parts of the world. And diet advice is an evolving thing.

John Ioannidis, chair of disease prevention at Stanford University, said he welcomed the growing attention to how diets affect the environment, but that the report’s recommendations do not reflect the level of scientific uncertainties around nutrition and health.

“The evidence is not as strong as it seems to be,” Ioannidis said.

There is a lot of variable and conflicting evidence. Diet is a very complex thing.

The report was organized by EAT, a Stockholm-based nonprofit seeking to improve the food system, and published Wednesday by the medical journal Lancet. The panel of experts who wrote it says a “Great Food Transformation” is urgently needed by 2050, and that the optimal diet they outline is flexible enough to accommodate food cultures around the world.

Overall, the diet encourages whole grains, beans, fruits and most vegetables, and says to limit added sugars, refined grains such as white rice and starches like potatoes and cassava. It says red meat consumption on average needs to be slashed by half globally, though the necessary changes vary by region and reductions would need to be more dramatic in richer countries like the United States.

And New Zealand.

Convincing people to limit meat, cheese and eggs won’t be easy, however, particularly in places where those foods are a notable part of culture.

Also because diet advice keeps changing. Who to believe?

My diet has changed considerably over the past couple of decades, bot what I eat and the quantity I eat. I already eat considerably less meat than I used to. Will I eat even less? I don’t see a pressing need.

Diets are for other people. Eating a variety of things in moderation just seems like common sense, without getting too swayed by the latest diets and campaigns.

 

Tricky time for Ardern for trade talks in Europe

In the UK Brexit is in disarray, and this mess will cause difficulties working out future trade alliances there and in Europe. But all this up in the air Jacinda Ardern is going to try.

RNZ: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern heading to Europe with a focus on trade

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern heads to London this weekend where she’s expected to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the wake of her surviving a no-confidence vote.

While there Ms Ardern will push for certainty that New Zealand will be left no worse off in respect of trade following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union (EU).

I doubt that trade with New Zealand will be much of a priority for May or for the UK right now. They don’t know what they are doing for themselves let alone what they might be able to do with countries on the other side of the world.

She will then head to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, along with the Finance Minister Grant Robertson, where the focus will be progressing a free trade agreement with Europe.

The prime minister will then head to Brussels for high-level meetings.

“My visit to the UK is an opportunity to underline New Zealand’s position as a natural and long-standing partner for the country as it redefines its global role post-Brexit,” Ms Ardern said.

What ‘post-Brexit’ will look like is anyone’s guess right now.

“I will be using my engagements to enhance New Zealand’s profile as a likeminded partner to the EU across a wide range of issues, including climate change, social policy, trade and our commitment to the rules-based system,” she said.

“There is still much progress to make in trade talks with our European partners, so a key focus of this whole trip is to speak to European Commission and individual country leaders to shore up support for our ongoing negotiations and ensure New Zealand exporters achieve a great deal.”

Ardern is probably on the mark saying “There is still much progress to make in trade talks with our European partners”.

She has too make the most of her trip to London and Europe, but it is going to be difficult making much progress on trade deals.

Unless Ardern can sort out Brexit for May and the EU while she is there.

Polynesians and Australia (and more)

Polynesians were seafarers, travelling all over the Pacific, including to New Zealand. While winds may have made it easier to go east, they also came south to Aotearoa. There’s no reason why that won’t have also gone back westward.

Scott Hamilton emailed:

I liked the way you discussed ancient Pacific history on your blog recently. I’m not criticising what you said per se, but I’ve queried your suggestion that Aboriginal Australia and Aotearoa had no contact before about 1788, in light of some intriguing bits of evidence.

Scott pointed me to a Twitter thread:

In a recent post to his popular yournz blog, Pete George said that Polynesians never visited Australia, & never encountered Aboriginal cultures. George’s claim reflects received opinion, but there are some neglected pieces of evidence that suggest it is wrong.

What I said in Why wasn’t New Zealand inhabited by humans earlier? was “Aborigine history is fascinating, but appears to be unrelated to Aotearoa history until Cook’s voyage in 1788.” My knowledge of this is actually quite scant.

Scott’s thread continues:


We tend to think of the Polynesians sailing east, because of the explosion of voyages out of their Tongan & Samoan heartland fifteen hundred years ago. We know now their vaka made it all the way to the Americas. But Polynesians also went west – much further west than Australia.

Obsidian from Tuhua Island, in the Bay of Plenty, has been found in the Kermadecs, proving that early settlers of Aotearoa journeyed north, toward their ancestral homelands. Norfolk Island’s soil has given up numerous Polynesian artefacts, including adzes.

While the finds in the Kermadecs & on Norfolk are well-known, very little publicity has ever attached itself to the discovery of a Polynesian adze on the coast of New South Wales in 1929. The adze sat forgotten for decades, but was recently analysed by three Australian scholars.

The Australian scholars found that the adze from NSW bore many similarities to artefacts found on Norfolk. They decided that it is likely a relic of a Polynesian journey from Norfolk to the continent: A Norfolk Island basalt adze from coastal New South Wales:

No scholar, let alone team of scholars, has ever systematically investigated the possibility that Polynesians visited Australia. Those artefacts that hint at such a visit, like the NSW adze & a fragment of pounamu that turned up in Tasmania, were found by chance.

There are hints that Polynesians not only visited Australia but made return journeys east. In 1993 a team of Japanese archaeologists made an astonishing but little-reported discovery on Pukapuka, the northernmost island of the Cooks. They dug up the bones of a dingo.

The dingo is native to Australia. It has a cousin in Papua New Guinea, but is related only very distantly & indirectly to the Polynesian dog. If a dingo was present on the Polynesian island of Pukapuka centuries ago, then it would have had to have come from Australia.

To be fair, at least one scholars disputes whether the creature unearthed on Pukapuka really was a dingo. Geoffrey Clark feels it may have been some variation on a Polynesian dog – Prehistoric contact between Australia and Polynesia: the Pukapuka dog re‐examined

But the Pukapuka dingo is not the only piece of evidence for return voyages by Polynesians from Oz. In 1925 a man fossicking amongst midden-dunes on Muriwai beach discovered a boomerang. His discovery was reported in the Journal of the Polynesian Society the next year.

(Could this have floated across the Tasman? PG)

If Polynesians visited & even settled in Australia, then it might be possible to find traces of their presence in the stories & imagery of coastal Aboriginal peoples. The Muslim fishermen who visited Arnhem land for centuries left many reminders: Indigenous Australia’s long history with Islam

 

There’s another model for tracing ancient Polynesian contacts with Australia. Over the past decade or so scholars have found convincing evidence that Polynesians visited California, by probing the vocabulary & aquatechnology of the Chumash people, who live around Santa Barbara.

 

 

Social chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Social only, no politics, issues or debate.

Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

Pope moving slowly towards addressing abuse scandals

The Pope has been justifiably criticised for his tardiness in addressing multiple abuse scandals in the Catholic Church around the world.  He seems to be slowly moving towards being seen to be doing something about it.

Pope Francis is insisting that bishops attending his high-stakes sex abuse prevention summit will learn the laws to use against predators, how to care for victims and will make sure that no cleric abuse cases are covered up again.

The Vatican on Wednesday provided details about the Feb. 21-24 meeting, saying its main aim is to guarantee that bishops around the world “clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors.”

It’s extremely late to be making sure that bishops understand laws related to sexual predators, but at least it is happening.

Francis announced in September that he was inviting presidents of bishops’ conferences around the world to attend the summit amid a crisis in his papacy over his own botched handling of sex abuse cases and a new explosion of the scandal in the U.S., Chile and beyond.

Francis has a blemished record on handling sex abuse cases.

As a cardinal in Argentina, Francis commissioned an external legal study into the case of a popular priest accused of abuse whose conviction was upheld by the country’s supreme court. Last year, he strongly defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering for a notorious predator.

The Pope himself has had a major learning curve on this.

Francis has also been accused of turning a blind eye to the sexual misconduct with adults by the American ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. And the pope is now under the spotlight because an Argentine bishop whose career he promoted, first in Argentina and now at the Holy See, is under investigation for sexual misconduct with seminarians.

The Vatican spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti, said Francis realized the problem is global and must be addressed globally by the church.

The problems (plural, many, over a long time) have not been dealt with abysmally up until now.

The summit may be a move in the right direction but there looks to be a long way to go for the pope and the Catholic Church to repair extensive damage that has been done, both to many lives of victims over decades, and also to the reputation of the church.