Government at risk of revolt against the TPP?

There were large protests against the Trans-Pacific Partnership when the then National Government passed the agreement through Parliament. Labour was vocal in it’s opposition to the TPP, and some of their MPs were actively involved in the protests.

It wasn’t clear how much of their opposition was just political opportunism and trying to make things difficult for National. It’s also not clear (to me at least) how much Labour was involved in organising the protests and supposition.

Then in November in Vietnam the now Labour Government worked on getting a revised CPTPP agreement between the eleven countries (Trump had pull the USA out).

And last month an agreement was reached, with NZ First also switching to support of Labour, but also needing National’s support. The Greens remained opposed, but their protests have been conspicuously muted.

Jane Kelsey immediately complained, but it has taken a while for other TOP opponents to start to complain.

John Minto at The Daily Blog in 100 days and the first broken promise

In their first 100 days Labour has offered us “not-National” policies but little else – unless a Woman’s Weekly Prime Minister is considered in the common good.

I’d like to be able to offer well-deserved praise to the Labour-led government but their policy offerings from their first 100 days have been uninspiring.

In each case the issues involved are central to the public interest and the new government is acting quickly and firmly to mop up the previous government’s failures.

In each case the public support was already assured for each announcement so there was no chance of serious kickback from National or its vested interests.

On the other hand, three crucial decisions of the new government will have a wider impact on the country and in each case Labour has failed the public interest in favour of vested corporate interests.

TPP:

Having done their best, before the election, to pretend they were opposed to the TPP and the secrecy around its negotiation, the new government has simply helped repackage the agreement with a few cosmetic changes to make it seem more palatable. It isn’t. It’s the same old bill of rights for foreign corporations to plunder our economy that its always been.

Minto and his fellow protesters were happy for Labour “to pretend they were opposed to the TPP” when it suited, but now they have woken up to being duped – although it had been obvious that Labour was milking as staunch opposition some fairly minor points of disagreement.

Political activist and trade unionist Elliot Crossan wants the Greens to actively oppose the CPTPP rather than whimper and roll over, to the extent that he thinks they should threaten to drag down the Government.

Against the Current: IT’S TIME FOR THE GREEN’S TO PLAY HARDBALL ON THE TPPA

Was the movement against the TPPA just protesting the National Party, or was it about a broader opposition towards control of Aotearoa by business elites no matter which party is in power? If the answer is the latter, what do we do to stop this corporate stitch-up of an agreement once and for all, now that Labour and New Zealand First have betrayed us?  

With Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her coalition government intending to  sign the reheated agreement on March 8, Elliot Crossan says its time to play hardball.

It cannot be understated just how crucial it is to any progressive vision of Aotearoa that we stop TPPA. TheInvestor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms were the main catalyst for concern around which the opposition movement mobilised.

But Labour and the other countries now call the agreement the Comprehensive and Progressive TPP!

LabourNew Zealand First and Green politicians turned up to our marches against the TPPA, and made political capital from voicing their concurrence with the demands of our movement.

Then-frontbencher Jacinda Ardern said of TPPA that “it is unlike any free trade agreement we’ve been party to before”, and that “it wasn’t just state to state, it was corporate to state.” The Labour Party’s minority submission in the Select Committee concluded with the statement “the TPPA will have ramifications for generations of New Zealanders.

Winston Peters went so far as to write a piece for theDominion Post entitled “With the Trans-Pacific Partnership, New Zealand is signing a blank cheque”, and opining that “being a beacon of free and fair trade is what New Zealand once claimed it stood for.

Barry Coates, who was one of the leaders of the campaign against the TPPA, briefly served as a Green MP, and was highly placed on the party’s list going into the election; the Greens were sounding alarm bells about TPPA as far back as 2010, and of the three parties in government, have the most consistent record of opposition.

The Greens have been consistently opposed, but not consistent in how actively opposed they are. A roar has become a whimper.

Now that they are in power, both Labour and New Zealand First have decided to support what campaign group It’s Our Future are calling “the Zombie TPPA”, the revived agreement minus the United States.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Trade Minister David Parker are desperately insisting that their sudden shift of stance is “nota u-turn”, while Winston Peters is claiming that “the deal is not the deal inherited, it’s different … with substantial changes with the types that the Canadians were holding out on as well, that we both have seen changes that mean we can support this deal”.

Only the Greens remain against it, with new MP and trade spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman maintaining staunch opposition and outlining how the Greens believe that disagreement and protest within government, including on the TPPA, are essential to the Green vision.

Ghahraman has voiced some opposition, but her party doesn’t seem to care much about reviving the protest movement they were an active part of.

Here lie two essential questions. Was the movement against the TPPA just protesting the National Party, or was it about a broader opposition towards control of Aotearoa by business elites no matter which party is in power?

It was both, sort of. There was staunch probably not very broad  “opposition towards control of Aotearoa by business elites”, including the Greens. But Labour used this to build broader protest against the National Party.

If the deal goes to a vote in the House, then National, ACT, Labour and New Zealand First will vote for it, with only the Greens opposed. It will pass 112 votes to 8. But the opposition to TPPA must not melt away quietly, resigned to defeat. It may be that we cannot stop the deal now, but there is no question that we have to try with all our might to bring it down.

So what  is to be done? Firstly, we need to educate people on how the “CPTPP” is no different from the deal National tried to sell us. Jane Kelsey is going on a speaking tour to this purpose this month—you can find your local meeting here.

When the TPP protests were being supported by Labour Kelsey had a speaking tour then too, and I went to her meeting in Dunedin. Now Labour minister but then Labour’s trade spokesperson David Clark attended, and spoke at an anti-TPP rally in the Octagon see Labour’s Mad McCarten Moment? and David Clark on the TPPA.

Secondly, we need to organise to hold demonstrations as big if not bigger than our protests against the original TPPA. We should not tone down our resistance when so-called progressive parties are in power—we should be angrier!

Would it be any more than Twelve Angry Activists?

Thirdly, we need to mobilise forms of protest which show the threat people power can pose to those who seek to govern us. The unions should strongly consider strike action to demonstrate the high political price any government will pay if it tries to serve the interests of profit over looking after the wellbeing of the people and planet.

Union strikes against the union supported Labour led government would be interesting.

 

Perhaps unions could threaten to withdraw their financial support of the Labour Party, and threaten to withdraw from Labour’s leadership selection arrangement.

I make my fourth argument as someone who has been a member of the Green Party for three years and served in 2017 as the Co-Convenor of the Young Greens. The Greens only have eight MPs, three of whom are Ministers outside of Cabinet—apart from the areas agreed in our Confidence and Supply agreement, the party has little to no power over government… other than the power to bring the government down in a situation desperately important enough. And I would argue that TPPA presents such a situation.

The founding document of the Greens simply cannot be implemented within the structures TPPA would entrench. This poses an existential threat which cannot be ignored to the hopes and dreams that Greens, and progressives in general, have for the future of Aotearoa.

Bringing down the government is a drastic move to make, especially so early in its term. There are few things which could necessitate such a play being made, but TPPA is, in my view, undeniably one of them. There is simply no alternative if we are serious about creating a better future.

What would the effect of the Greens withdrawing Confidence and Supply be? Given it is far too late now for Winston to make a u-turn and support National, and given the Greens would never prop up National, neither National or Labour would have the confidence of the House. This would mean Ardern would have to choose whether to concede to the Greens, or to call another election.

Withdrawing from the Confidence and Supply agreement would likely remove any doubt that the Greens would be a liability to any government and could not be trusted. The Greens must have known the likely outcome of the TPP when they chose to support Labour and NZ First into government.

What would happen in another election?

Polling taken in 2012 through 2016 indicates a broad public opposition to TPPA. An election held on the basis of the agreement would favour the Greens well, as long as the party could effectively communicate the gravity of the threat posed by the agreement, and hammer home that we are the only party who have never wavered in our stance against it. Given their u-turn on the trade deal so many of its members and supporters despise, Labour would be at risk of losing its progressive base to the Greens.

There would be a far greater risk of:

  • Green support plummeting and never recovering due to being viewed as too radical and unreliable to be in Government or in Parliament.
  • NZ First support remaining where it currently is according to the latest polls, below the threshold.
  • Labour support dropping, dragged down by anti-TOPP activists and punished by voters for trusting the Greens.
  • National would likely win a forced election and become a one-party government.

The CPTPP would be already signed so nothing would be achieved except political chaos and a strong swing rightward.

Perhaps a compromise is in order. Given the fact that Labour and New Zealand First went into the election opposing TPPA, and given that it permanently removes democratic rights from New Zealanders, the very least that the government should do would be to allow a binding referendum to take place before agreeing to the deal.

A referendum on the CPTPP could not be forced and organised before the signing next month. And it would be quite undemocratic for a small minority to force a delay and referendum when a huge majority in our representative Parliament supports it progressing.

There could not be anything more destructive to the Greens than to allow a trade deal to pass through parliament which would allow corporations to sue governments.

Yes there could – Greens self destructing, destroying the Government and putting National back in control.

Even if the Greens succeeded in turning Labour against signing the CPTPP this would likely confirm people’s concerns about the Greens being in Government, damage the Government significantly, and consign it to a single term, if it lasted that long.

I also question Crossan’s assertions about the degree  the CPTPP “would allow corporations to sue governments”, but that’s another story.