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).

Expect radical shift in Labour economic policy

Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says we can expect a radical shift in Labour’s economic policy.

A cynic could suggest a radical shift towards common sense would be welcome, but voters tend to be very wary of radical policy suggestions from those who could follow through with them.

Can we also expect a radical shift in primary and secondary education policy?

NZ Herald reports Expect radical changes to economic policy, says Robertson.

Grant Robertson says New Zealanders can expect a radical shift in the Labour Party’s economic policy ahead of the 2017 election as his party looks to prepare workers for huge changes in the labour market in coming decades.

Mr Robertson is in Paris for the OECD’s Future of Work Forum, where politicians, businesspeople and unions are discussing how to adapt to the digital economy and the increasing casualisation of the workforce.

The shadow finance and employment minister is seeking ideas for his Future of Work Commission, a two-year project which will inform Labour’s new economic development policies.

“If we look ahead two decades, there will be enormous change,” he told the Herald from Paris. “Up to half of the jobs in the economy today won’t be there.”

That is because blue- and white-collar jobs are being lost to robotics, automisation and computerisation.

The working environment is becoming more flexible, and people are more likely to have several different career paths over their lifetime.

Mr Robertson said addressing these changes would mean a radical change of direction for his party.

“I do think there will be some big shifts because that reflects the magnitude of the change that is happening,” he said.

The nature of work in New Zealand and around the world has already changed enormously over the past fifty years.

Labour’s Future of Work commission is a good medium term project, focusing on what should be a core policy area for them, labour. It’s the sort of thing that should be done by parties while in Opposition – Labour should have started this sort of thing six years earlier but now is better than going nowhere.

Of course the benefits to Labour and to the country will depend on the quality of the findings of their Commission. Hopefully they will be useful to all parties in looking ahead.

Mr Robertson said New Zealand already had a flexible labour market, but it needed to be balanced with greater security and income support.

“Obviously you can’t take a model and replicate it from one country to another. It’s the principles of it that we are looking at and how something similar could be put in place in New Zealand.”

A less certain working environment meant workers would have to upskill or retrain throughout their careers, Mr Robertson said.

“The idea that you can leave school or go to university and you never have to do anything else is gone now. Whatever system we come up with needs to be linked to the idea that training is an automatic part of your working life.”

Rethinking the amount of upfront tertiary education compared to ongoing training and retraining parallel to careers – most people can now expect to change careers several times through their working lives – is important.

It’s impractical to spend 3-6 years getting degrees and then having to repeat every decade or so.

A good academic grounding is very useful but being able to duck in and out of education or training is becoming essential in many fields of work.

Preparing New Zealanders for the changing workforce will have to begin early – at primary schools – and will prompt changes to the education system and curriculum.

“The more traditional ways of assessing and learning are starting to become less and less relevant,” Mr Robertson said.

“I expect big changes in the education and training system to be one of the things that comes out of the commission,” the Labour MP said.

Is Robertson also hinting at radical changes to primary and secondary level education? That could be challenging given the reluctance of education sectors to relatively minor changes to their comfort zones.

The Future of Work Commission’s findings will be published in November.

That timing is a shame. It is heading into the political dead zone at end of year, and then we will be headlong into election year, so there may be little chance of a decent non-partisan assessment of the results of Labour’s Commission.

Much may depend on how much Labour’s efforts are targeting their election campaign next year and how much is for the future good of the country as a whole.