Ardern on foreign policy and trade

After her first international trip after becoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in  report from Newsroom – Ardern adjusts to life at the top – Sam Sachdeva reports on her vision on foreign policy and her aims on trade.

Leading on climate change and nuclear-free

The summits were a chance not only to meet world leaders, but for Ardern to articulate her vision for New Zealand’s foreign policy.

She admitted to having big shoes to fill, with her discussions making clear the respect held for our country on the world stage.

“I’ve always known that to be true, but to see it enforced in these forums…is a real testament to the work that’s been done before, and the work all year round that our representatives do.”

During the election campaign, Ardern described climate change as “the nuclear-free movement of our generation”, providing a hint of how she wants to mix the old with the new in New Zealand’s advocacy.

“We have been strong advocates on issues like nuclear non-proliferation and that is as relevant now as it’s ever been, particularly when it comes to the Korean peninsula, and so playing a role in being consistent advocates, particularly from a position of always taking a really principled stance I think is important.”

At her speech to the Apec CEO’s Summit, Ardern spoke about climate change “lapping at our feet” in the Asia-Pacific, and she said it was an area where New Zealand could speak up for others who could be the worst affected.

“I wasn’t the only one [talking about climate change], but there weren’t many of us, and I do think it’s an issue that needs consistent advocacy because in some of those forums there’s an absence of the groups that are directly affected, but the overall Asia-Pacific will feel its impact hugely and yet have some of the most deprived populations in the world as well.”

In a speech during the election campaign Ardern referred to climate change: “This is my generation’s nuclear-free moment, and I am determined that we will tackle it head on.”

Globalising trade and rights

Under John Key and Bill English, New Zealand was an ardent supporter of free trade and globalisation.

While Ardern did sign off on what is now the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), there are signs that she may pursue a more nuanced approach to the benefits of trade.

“We absolutely, absolutely support free trade, but alongside that we’ve got the opportunity now within our trade agenda to say alongside supporting free trade, we have the ability to try to create some architecture that means that we also start globalising rights as well.”

That meant ensuring trade ageements didn’t “simply have trade chase or flow into the country with the lowest labour standards and the lowest wages”.

With social inclusion one of the points of focus at Apec, Ardern said her government was not alone in plotting a new approach.

“What’s clear is that we have started hitting those road blocks where non-tariff barriers and protectionism still exists, and some of the rationale for that is there has been a pushback on trade agendas that haven’t filtered down into prosperity.

“Actually if we really want to sell the benefits of trade, we have to make sure people start feeling the benefits of trade as well, and that’s the next challenge.”

That means more than paying lip service to a new narrative, as Ardern notes: “We can’t just claim that we’re telling the story that hasn’t been told before.”

She points to CPTPP provisions that will allow countries to enforce labour standards – a first for a trade agreement – as a sign of what is possible.

“Basic as they may be, that’s a starting point, and when you start hearing negotiators from countries advocating for their use, because it’s enabled them to start enforcing standards on multinationals operating in their country, where they haven’t successfully been able to pass domestic legislation, then you start seeing the tools that we have in this wider agenda.”

While climate change will be an ongoing test of Ardern’s tenure as Prime Minister the CPTPP is an early test of both Ardern and Labour’s trade aims and priorities, and it is also likely to be a test of Labour’s relationshiip with partners in Government, NZ First and particularly the Greens.

NZ-Aus ISDS clause already existed

An interesting point from Politik on a an implied improvement in the CPTPP agreement, regarding Investor State provisions with Australia.

Parker’s statement on Sunday said: “It (the CPTPP) preserves New Zealand’s right to regulate in the public interest.

“We have also retained the reciprocal agreement with Australia, which is the source of 80 per cent of our overseas investment from this new grouping, that ISDS clauses will not apply between our countries.

“We continue to seek similar agreements with the other countries in this new Agreement.”

Strictly speaking, Parker is correct. By using the word “retained,” he acknowledges that the agreement not to use the ISDS clauses has been in existence for some time.

That is confirmed in a little-noticed section in the TPP National Interest Analysis produced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in January last year which said: “Consistent with ANZCERTA and the Australia-ASEAN-New Zealand FTA, TPP’s ISDS provisions would not apply between New Zealand and Australia. “

Notice of this was posted as an “associated document” to the TPP on the MFAT website in late 2015.

But speaking in Sydney on November 5, after her meeting with Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared to suggest that the pair had exchanged letters agreeing not to invoke ISDS procedures against each other.

“We discussed a signed letter on the ISDS clauses which we see as being mutually beneficial,” she said.

“That acknowledges our positions on ISDS – at least between each other.”

The exchange of letters (if it was new) was not necessary; MFAT had already established that the ISDS clauses did not apply to Australian investment in New Zealand.

http://politik.co.nz/en/content/foreignaffairs/1231

So despite what was implied by Ardern we have never had an ISDS claim in the past, and the TPP already had an exclusion to ISDS applying between Australia and New Zealand, which amounts to 80% of our overseas investment.

Odd that when in government National hadn’t done more to point this out.

ISDS concerns seem to be much ado about bugger all.

 

NZ First want to see CPTPP final deal

Labour is obviously keen to get the CPTPP trade deal done, and with promised support from National they have a large majority in Parliament for it. ACT will presumably also support it.

Greens remain ‘strongly against’ pretty much any real world trade agreement – see Greens confirm CPTPP sideline opposition.

Despite Winston peters being close to the recent action in Vietnam NZ First has indicated it wants to see the details before deciding whether they will support it or not, but they are probably bound to vote for it anyway through Cabinet responsibility.

Newshub:  NZ First support for TPP not guaranteed

Labour may have to pass the CPTPP into law with the support of National and ACT – and without its Government support partners.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand First won’t make a decision on whether it backs the CPTPP (the rebranded Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) through Parliament, until it’s seen the final deal.

Speaking from the Philippines, Ms Ardern said, despite New Zealand First having Cabinet responsibility, it also had the ability to agree to disagree.

“We won’t have a conversation about where party support will fall, until we have a final agreement,” she said. “I absolutely understand parties in some cases will wait until the final deal’s on the table.”

From time to time, Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens will take differing positions, she said.

Ms Ardern has had ongoing conversations about the deal with NZ First leader Winston Peters.

So Peters should be up with the play as well as anyone, but the NZ First party may have  a tricky decision to make – how to vote for a trade deal that may be unpopular with many who voted for them.

Greens confirm CPTPP sideline opposition

The Green Party has confirmed “strong opposition” to the newly renamed Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Golriz Ghahraman, who was recently appointed as trade spokesperson, put out a Green Party statement on TPPA

The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand maintains its strong opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Curiously the Greens (this statement looks certain to have been written for Ghahraman by the party) are not referring to the new name, CPTPP.

“The Green Party has long opposed the TPPA. The new proposed deal, which came out of the weekend’s talks, still contains key ISDS concessions to corporations that put our democracy at risk, so our position remains the same,” said Green Party trade spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman.

Our democracy is no more at risk than it was last week, last month or last year.

Continued anti-corporation rhetoric makes greens sound anti-business. Greens give the impression that they are only prepared to deal with perfect socialist countries.

“We support fair trade that brings real benefit to all New Zealanders – not trade deals that put our rights and our Government’s ability to legislate to protect our people and our environment at risk.

“ISDS mechanisms are a particular threat to environmental protections, with 85% of ISDS cases being brought by corporations focused on exploiting the environment and natural resources.

I don’t think there has ever been an ISDS case brought against New Zealand. They are seen as very low risk.

“The Green Party will be seeking to introduce new measures that require all trade agreements in the future to be part of the solution to climate change, global and local inequality and the protection of human rights.

Seeking idealistic perfection – the Greens are yet to learn that pragmatism is an essential of being in effective government.

“Standing in opposition to the TPPA does not make a difference to our relationship with Labour. Indeed it is a sign of the strength of that relationship that we can respectfully disagree on an important issue like the TPPA but still get on with the business of government.

This is safe symbolic opposition knowing that National will support Labour in enabling the CPTPP.

“We made it clear to Labour in negotiations that we cannot support the TPPA, and they understand our policy difference.

There is no change in stance from ““We made it clear to Labour in negotiations that we cannot support the TPPA” despite Jacinda Ardern claiming the agreement was now “damned sight better” than it had been before changes made in parallel to the APEC meeting in Vietnam.

“We will continue to use our position in Government to fight for better trade agreements that protect the interests of people and the planet, not just corporations,” said Ms Ghahraman.

Framing the TPP as people versus corporations is simplistic and grossly inaccurate. Trade agreements benefit New Zealand exporters, and some of the largest, like Fonterra, are producer owned cooperatives. There are also many small business exporters (I work for one), and whether large or small exporters employ many New Zealanders.

Sure this shows the Greens sticking to their principles – when it is safe and suits them.

Not supporting Labour on the CPTPP and leaving it to National is MMP in action, but it sets a precedent that could further weaken the Green position on the government sidelines.

Will the Greens just not support the CPTPP, or will they be actively involved in campaigning against it as they have been in the past?

Not voting with Labour is one thing, but campaigning against their major partner in government is a bigger risk.

Opposition remains to TPP

While Jacinda Ardern is happy with progress made with the now renamed CPTPP trade agreement that continued to be negotiated parallel to the APEC, but opponents in New Zealand remain opponents. This is no surprise.

Vernon Small:  Jacinda Ardern passes Apec summit test

Now it is back on track – albeit now delayed until the next time leaders can gather – and Ardern has set New Zealand up to sign the agreement formally known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

It transmogrified into the TPP-11 when President Donald Trump pulled the United States out in favour of bilateral trade deals – where New Zealand is vanishing far down the queue.

Perhaps fearing a countdown – TPP-10, 9, 8 – and apparently at the request of Canada, it has emerged from the crystalised emphasising its comprehensiveness and progressiveness.

It might be near unpronounceable as the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership), and loom on paper like an abbreviation of something from the former Soviet Union, but apparently the rebranding will help Trudeau sell it to his voters.

Signing the deal, but with some victories, would have been one of Ardern’s key aims. Not being blamed for its failure was probably another.

Critics in New Zealand were wishing for it to fail, but to no avail.

So it is no surprise her team have pushed hard to the media both messages; that any hold-ups are not of New Zealand’s making and that there have been significant wins on investor- state disputes settlement (ISDS) clauses. A “damned sight better” than it was, Ardern stressed as her crafted sound bite.

The TPP’s opponents at home have labelled it spin and are clearly disappointed Labour’s strong rhetoric did not see it reject the deal in its entirety.

Some aspects of the ISDS clauses have been narrowed and those “suspensions” have been put on ice, pending a possible US return.

In theory, New Zealand could veto them returning if the US insisted on the resurrection of the ISDS clauses and if our Government was prepared to stare down a post-Trump US and the other 10 CPTPP nations.

The incoming Government has managed to brush some fleas off the clauses, which Ardern called “a dog”, but she will be hoping the shift against them internationally will continue and that they will stay impounded when they are reviewed in three years time.

Ardern says it is now “a damn sight better than what we had when we started” and obviously wants it to happen. Not so the TPP opponents.

RNZ: TPP critics unmoved by new negotiation wins

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) is still opposed to the Trans Pacific Partnership, despite the government claiming significant wins at the talks at APEC.

CTU secretary Sam Huggard said the agreement was still not good enough on labour laws or transparency.

He said he was keen to talk to the government about negotiating different types of trade deals in the future.

“Certainly the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions has shown a strong interest in its opposition to the TPPA for some years now, and that will continue.

“I guess what we’d like to do though is be part of a conversation with government about what a better agenda for trade could look like for working people.”

He said the TPP was structurally biased towards the commercial sector and downplayed issues such as health, safety and human rights.

And Jane Kelsey is also unsurprisingly still opposed – there is less chance of her supporting the TPP than there is of John Key making a political comeback or Andrew Little taking back the Labour leadership from Ardern.

On Saturday when there appeared to be a hiccup in the TPP negotiations Kelsey tried to start a campaign to pressure Canadian PM Justin Trudeau to ditch the deal: Help kill TPPA today by tweeting PM Trudeau

It’s not over yet. I don’t want to jump the gun. There will be more attempts to pull it off today.

The Japanese PM Abe is now trying to pressure Canada to finalise the agreement whilst they are in Vietnam. Can you please help us in tweeting PM Trudeau, Canadian Trade Minister and the Canadian Foreign Minister.

Canada refused to sign on at the last minute due to concerns around labour rights, Indigenous rights, cultural issues and gender equality.

Asking them to maintain their position on the #TPP and put culture, indigenous rights, women’s rights, and labour rights ahead of corporate interests.

That failed. Kelsey also posted yesterday: Labour largely endorses National’s TPPA, but it’s not all over. What now?

The bad news is that the Labour government has endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, with the suspension of a limited range of items, at the ministerial and leaders’ meetings in Da Nang, Viet Nam.

The ministerial statement released by the TPPA-11 has a catchy new branding for the deal: the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).  No easy slogans there! But isn’t it interesting how something so toxic can simply be relabelled ‘progressive’?

I suspect Kelsey would see any sort of trade deal as toxic.

So, what happens now? There is no timeline for the next meeting of the CPTPP parties. That means there is now time for the new government to conduct in-depth consultations over its proposal to adopt the deal. It also needs to commission the robust analysis that Labour called for in opposition, independent of MFAT and consultants like the NZIER who basically rubber stamped the previous shonky modelling.

They need to make sure it uses realistic models that also cover the broader economic implications, especially for jobs and income distribution. If the economics don’t stack up, as Labour said they didn’t with the original TPPA-12, then they have no basis for arguing that the CPTPP should proceed.

Their independent review also needs to include non-economic impacts on environment, health, human rights and the Treaty of Waitangi.

But before it does that work to advance a deal they previously refused to ratify, the new government needs to give priority to its proposed full and participatory review of trade policy. All existing and future negotiations must be frozen until that is done.

As far as Kelsey is concerned it needs to be her way or no way.

However both Labour and National support the CPTPP largely as it is – that’s 102 seats out of the 120 in Parliament.

Minister of Trade David Parker is speaking on RNZ now, dismissing Kelsey’s criticisms.

Concerns and opposition dominate at The Standard: The TPP11 negotiations: ISDS provisions are gone – almost

TPP now CPTPP, core elements agreed on

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is back on, and has been renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Who the hell thought of that name? But it’s just a long winded name.

RNZ: TPP deal revived once more, 20 provisions suspended

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal remains on track to be agreed by the eleven nations involved.

It has been a tumultuous couple of days for ministers and trade negotiators at Da Nang in Vietnam: 24 hours ago, the deal looked close to collapse, after Canada’s representatives failed to show for a meeting.

A key concern from Canada was reported to be that Malaysia and Vietnam wanted to opt out of requirements for fair workplace laws, including the elimination of child and forced labour.

Speaking to reporters late last night, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there was “still more important work to be done to ensure we reach the best deal for Canada and Canadian people”.

Everyone wants the best deal for their own countries and people, but they will only reach agreement by compromising.

But more high-pressure talks have brought agreement – in principle – on the “core elements” of a deal.

The officials did it by suspending 20 provisions of the original TPP, some of which related to protecting labour rights and the environment, although most dealt with intellectual property.

Stuff: Renamed TPP ‘a damned sight better’, could be in place in a few months

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made it clear on Saturday that concessions won, particularly on controversial investor-state disputes settlement clauses, had cleared the way for New Zealand to sign.

“This is not a perfect agreement but it is a damned sight better than what we had when we started,’ she told reporters after the leaders’ retreat at the Apec summit in Da Nang, Vietnam.

“It is not perfect, no free trade agreement is. But it’s a lot better than where we were three weeks ago.”

That will please some  but others will never be happy with any trade agreement.

Trade ministers, including New Zealand’s David Parker, issued a statement acknowledging agreement on the core elements of the CPTPP.

They also released a list of “suspended issues”, which were essentially those that had been important to the US.

They can now only be written back into the deal by negotiation – and only by consensus of all the parties – if the US seeks to rejoin, perhaps in the post-President Donald Trump era.

That’s at least three years off. There’s obviously no need for US specific clauses.

That, in theory, means New Zealand can prevent the suspended changes to the ISDS regime from re-entering the agreement.

“If America comes in, it’s not an automatic lifting of those suspended provision … we worked hard to have lifted,” Ardern said.

The agreement would now be taken back to a select committee for the public and Parliament to assess it.

It will be interesting to see how much it is protested this time.

Ardern said New Zealand negotiators had worked hard on the ISDS clauses, which allow corporations to take legal action against host countries in special tribunals.

They have been narrowed in three areas:

* First, they no longer apply to investor screening, so decisions made under the Overseas Investment Act regime, administered by the Overseas Investment office, could not be challenged. Ardern said that was perhaps the most important change.
* Second, anyone who takes up a contract with the government would no longer be able to sue through ISDS provisions but must instead use domestic procedures.
* The third change related to financial services.

Also, a side letter with Australia has ruled out the use of ISDS provisions between the two countries, meaning ISDS does not apply to 80 per cent of foreign direct investment from TPP nations.

A “handful” of other countries have agreed in principle to ISDS side letters. but Ardern said she could not disclose them now.

Ardern said the ISDS provisions in the CPTPP were now similar to previous trade agreements New Zealand has signed, such as with China and Malaysia.

New Zealand had wanted to go further, but she regarded the progress over just a few weeks since she came to office as “a good outcome”.

But New Zealand had now put a line in the sand.

“We will not sign up to future agreements that include those clauses.”

Other suspensions in the new CPTPP included to copyright provisions. The US had achieved a “life plus 70 years” rule, but that would now drop back to the current “life plus 50 years”. That was worth $50 million to $55m a year to New Zealand.

Also, disclosure and administratives rules imposed on drug buying agency Pharmac would now be suspended, which would have cost $5.5m up-front and $2.5m a year.

The remaining hurdles to all 11 CPTPP nations are four outstanding issues, on which negotiation was still required.

They included how long Vietnam had to meet certain labour standards, and the time when Brunei and Malaysia will make changes to restrictions in their oil and gas industries.

The fourth issue applies to Canada, which is arguing for a “culture” carve out – essentially so it can offer bigger subsidies for French-language programming. New Zealand was a supporter of Canada on that issue.

So the CPTPP could take a while yet but looks back on track.

A fresh approach to negotiations with new leadership may have been a good thing for New Zealand.