Little on defying the TPPA

Here’s the interview of Andrew Little on Radio New Zealand where he says he would defy the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Labour says it will defy TPP

The Labour Party leader Andrew Little says his party would defy the Trans Pacific Partnership in Government.


The Labour Party leader Andrew Little says his party would defy the Trans Pacific Partnership in government.

An international agreement on the trade deal was reached late last year and now has to be ratified by each country’s government. There are reports it could be signed in New Zealand next month, two days before Waitangi day.

Note that signing is a step before ratifying – see TPPA process corrects claims of lying.

Mr Little says National has the numbers to pass the legislation without Labour. Andrew Little doesn’t intend to abide by the agreement if elected to government next year.

The interview:

RNZ: Once the ink’s dry on this how would a Labour government actually be able to flout it anyway?

Andrew Little: One of the provisions in the TPPA that most concerns me, I raised this in all the meetings I had  in Washington DC at the end of last year, is the part of the agreement that says that countries who are party to it will not be able to pass laws to restrict land sales.

So of we decided that there were too many Americans or too many Australians or too many Chinese or whoever buying up New Zealand farmland and we wanted to put restrictions on that then we wouldn’t be able to pass laws to do that.

The USA and Australia are party to the TPPA but China isn’t.

Andrew Little: That seems to me just an absolute contravention of our sovereign right to have a Parliament that passes our laws.

The funny thing is of course when you look at it, when you look at the agreement, at least three countries have got exemption from that provision, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore, and when I asked about the issue when I was in Washington DC I was told that actually New Zealand didn’t even ask for an exemption to that provision.

So we’re stuck with an agreement that would prevent a future New Zealand Parliament from passing a law that the New Zealand public might want to have.

The same must apply to many international agreements New Zealand has made. If a future New Zealand government wanted to pass a law that was in breach of an agreement then they would breach the agreement and would have to be prepared for any consequences, including the possible need to withdraw from the agreement..

RNZ: But if Labour was elected how would you actually defy this, how would you not go ahead with the bits that you don’t agree with?

Andrew Little: So the point I’m making, I’m getting to, is the Labour Party has a policy  that we would restrict or put in place restrictions on land sales, because we know that New Zealanders are concerned about the amount of land that is falling into non resident foreign ownership. And so we will proceed to do that.

But what I I guess they’re making clear (that part wasn’t clear) made clear in my meetings with officials of the administration at the end of last year and what I think is important for New Zealanders to do both around the time of the signing next month that happens then and during the course of legislation in our Parliament here is for New Zealanders to make very clear that they don’t agree with those parts of the TPPA that compromise our sovereignty.

I don’t know what Little means exactly by “compromise our sovereignty” but any international agreement made by New Zealand can affect what we can then do if we want to abide by those agreements.

It may be a ‘sovereign right’ for a future Government to pass legislation that breaches the Geneva Convention, or any other international agreement that we are signatories to, but it may not be very smart.

We need to send that signal very clearly so that when there is a change of government it won’t be a surprise to other members of the TPPA and we will proceed as if we will do what’s in the best interests of New Zealand.

Labour may be faced with a decision to decide whether it’s in our best interests to abide by international agreements or to breach or withdraw from the agreements. If they want to further restrict foreign buyers of land here it could involve more agreements than just the TPPA.

RNZ: Why such a strong opposition from Labour now?

Andrew Little: Ah well our opposition to anything that compromises our sovereignty is nothing new, we’ve made that pretty clear. I was pretty clear in my speech to the Labour conference at the end of last year is that  you know it is simply something we would not contemplate or would not agree with and we would defy it and I’ve made that clear to various American authorities I met with at the end of last year. I’m making it clear now.

You know I just I am stunned, I was stunned to hear when I was in Washington DC that they are where lining up the 4th of February as a date for the Ministerial signing of the agreement, and I said to some of them, I said are you nuts?

If Little knew last year about the plan to sign the TPPA on February 4th why is it suddenly big news now?

This is two days before our national day, the day we celebrate our national identity and our national authority. Why on earth would you set that aside as a date to sign an agreement that is so controversial and is not particularly popular in New Zealand. And was met with a sort of dumb silence.

So you know they will go ahead and do what they want. It just demonstrates a level of arrogance around this whole thing.

I think what’s important for New Zealanders um you know because there is a level of concern about it, that we send a very clear signal and take every opportunity to do so, that those things that undermine the sovereign right to our New Zealand Parliament, um we have to you know tell the other parties of the TPPA it’s not acceptable and we won’t abide by it.

What Little should be asked is if this not abiding by agreements that he or Labour don’t find acceptable could apply to any international agreement made by New Zealand.

If Labour is establishing a precedent of breaching agreements (or threatening to breach agreements) they don’t agree with I think this should be made very clear. And Little should say whether it could apply to any agreement they don’t think is acceptable.

RNZ: Is the Labour caucus behind this? Goff? Shearer? Are they with you?

Andrew Little: Ah, well, they it Labour Party policy is the policy of the Labour Party, both the you know the rank and file and the caucus and we’ve had discussions in caucus about it and indeed the party at conference and at all levels have discussed this and they’ve been pretty clear um and so you know that’s the stance um that that we’re taking.

I’ve made it very clear as leader the the approach I intend to take and that will no doubt be the subject of ongoing discussions but I’ve been very clear and I think that’s the approach we need to take.

Little has made it clear he wants to take a stance on defying or breaching the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement but has not made it clear to what extent he would take that, on the TPPA or potentially on any other international agreement.

And what seemed clear from his lack of clarity in that last response is that he may not have the full support of the Labour caucus and that expects discussions to be ongoing.

I’m not sure that Little or his advisers have thought through the implications of appearing to take a strong stance on a small part of the TPPA might have.

This has the potential to undo the dampening down of caucus dissent that Little appears to have achieved last year.

It also has implications for Little’s credibility as a potential Prime Minister, both on a national scale and particularly internationally.

Threatening to defy international agreements is no minor matter.