Trump looking at US rejoining TPP

Reports from the US say that President Trump has instructed advisers to look at re-entering the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, a month after it was signed by the remaining eleven countries, including New Zealand.

This looks to be a reaction to pressure from US farmers over Trump’s trade war with China,.

During the 2016 campaign Donald Trump spoke strongly against the TPP. As soon as he took office he withdrew the US from the agreement. Perhaps he thought that would kill the hole deal, but the the TPP progressed without the US, was renamed the CPTPP and was signed by the other eleven countries last month in Chile.

President Obama had promoted US participation in the TPP.

January last year: Trump Abandons Trans-Pacific Partnership, Obama’s Signature Trade Deal

President Trump upended America’s traditional, bipartisan trade policy on Monday as he formally abandoned the ambitious, 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership brokered by his predecessor and declared an end to the era of multinational trade agreements that defined global economics for decades.

With the stroke of a pen on his first full weekday in office, Mr. Trump signaled that he plans to follow through on promises to take a more aggressive stance against foreign competitors as part of his “America First” approach. In doing so, he demonstrated that he would not follow old rules, effectively discarding longstanding Republican orthodoxy that expanding global trade was good for the world and America — and that the United States should help write the rules of international commerce.

Although the Trans-Pacific Partnership had not been approved by Congress, Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw not only doomed former President Barack Obama’s signature trade achievement, but also carried broad geopolitical implications in a fast-growing region. The deal, which was to link a dozen nations from Canada and Chile to Australia and Japan in a complex web of trade rules, was sold as a way to permanently tie the United States to East Asia and create an economic bulwark against a rising China.

Mr. Trump’s decision to scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or T.P.P., reversed a free-trade strategy adopted by presidents of both parties dating back to the Cold War, and aligned him more with the political left. When he told a meeting of union leaders at the White House on Monday that he had just terminated the pact, they broke into applause.

“We’re going to stop the ridiculous trade deals that have taken everybody out of our country and taken companies out of our country, and it’s going to be reversed,” Mr. Trump told them, saying that from now on, the United States would sign trade deals only with individual allies. “I think you’re going to have a lot of companies come back to our country.”

Earlier this year, when it looked like the deal would go ahead without the US, there were signs Trump was rethinking, and now Senators there say he has instructed advisers to look at re-entering the deal.

CNBC: Trump told his advisors to look at re-entering massive Pacific trade deal, senators say

  • Senators say President Donald Trump wants his advisors to reconsider entering the TPP.
  • Lawmakers from agricultural states met with the president about the possible harm to farmers from Chinese retaliation to Trump’s proposed tariffs.
  • Trump left the massive 12-nation deal agreed to by President Barack Obama, and the remaining 11 nations reached a new agreement.

The president said he has instructed chief economic advisor Larry Kudlow and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to consider trying to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, said Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ben Sasse, R-Neb. The senators were among the lawmakers from agricultural states who met with Trump on Thursday about the White House’s proposed tariffs on China, which farmers worry would lead to retaliation that hurts their businesses.

After the meeting, Sasse told reporters the 12-nation trade deal agreed to by President Barack Obama and abandoned by Trump would be the “single best way” to counter alleged Chinese trade abuses.

“That cheating needs to be countered. But the single best way we can counter that is by leading all the rule of law nations in the Pacific who would rather be aligned with the U.S. than be aligned with China,” he said.

With the original deal, the nations intended in part to counter China’s economic influence in the region.

In January, Trump told CNBC he would join TPP again if he could make a “substantially better deal.” He argued the agreement as previously crafted was “terrible.”

On Thursday, Sasse suggested Trump thinks the U.S. could still join in on the agreement. The president reaffirmed “multiple times” that he believes it may be easier to join the agreement now, the senator said.

Now the deal has been signed without the US it puts them in a much weaker negotiating position.

 

 

Trump’s trade warmongering a risky game

It’s hard to know what is going to happen with world trade, with Donald Trump making heavy handed threats, partly retreating, then making more threats with a mist of both bullying and vagueness hovering over  it all.

Trump recently imposed steel and aluminium tariffs, citing national security. He talked tough.

Financial Times: Trump defends steel and aluminium tariffs threat with attack on EU

Donald Trump launched a fresh attack on the EU on Tuesday as he defended his plan for tariffs on aluminium and steel imports. Despite a growing Republican backlash against the tariffs, Mr Trump said he planned to impose them in a “very loving way” that would command new respect for the US around the world.

“The European Union has been particularly tough on the United States,” Mr Trump said. “They make it almost impossible for the United States to do business with them. And yet they send their cars and everything else . . .” The president repeated a threat of new tariffs on European car imports should the EU retaliate against his trade moves.

Republicans fear that any trade war that might ensue could undermine the economic benefits of last year’s tax cuts, ahead of November’s midterm elections.

In a letter to the president on Tuesday, Orrin Hatch, who chairs the Senate finance committee, said the proposed tariffs were akin to “harmful and unnecessary tax increases on American workers and consumers”.

Mr Trump insisted again on Tuesday that he was delivering on his campaign promise to protect American workers and companies from unfair foreign competition. But Republicans are trying to convince him that too broad an approach would hurt other steel and aluminium-using industries such as the drinks sector.

“This isn’t about backing down. This is about hitting your target,” Kevin Brady, chairman of the House ways and means committee, told CNBC.

But either Republican pressure or on a whim Trump has partially backed down, in the short term at least.

Reuters:  Trump temporarily excludes EU, six other allies from steel tariffs

In a presidential proclamation published late on Thursday, Trump said he would suspend tariffs for Argentina, Australia, Brazil, South Korea, Canada, Mexico and the European Union, the U.S.’s biggest trading partner, until May 1, 2018 as discussions continue.

After May 1, Trump would decide whether to permanently exempt the countries based on the status of talks, the White House said in a statement.

So Trump is all over the place. But not, on this, with New Zealand.

Stuff, March 12: New Zealand steel and aluminium exports pose ‘no threat’ to US: Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand has a “strong case” for an exemption from US tariffs, claiming steel and aluminium exports pose “no threat” to the world’s largest economy.

Ardern told reporters at her weekly post-Cabinet press conference that ministers were seeking an exemption from the tariffs “as we speak” and believed the case was strong.

“We have what I would characterise as an important and broad relationship with the US, not unlike Australia, so we believe we have a strong case for an exemption.

“I think that case is enhanced by the fact that we are clearly not a target here. Our exports of steel and aluminium are very small,” Ardern said.

New Zealand sent the US a letter asking to be exempted. Perhaps Ardern should have threatened via Twitter, but I doubt that Trump nor the republicans would care much about our tiny case.

Now Trump moves to crack down on China trade with $60 billion in tariffs on imported products

President Trump took the first steps toward imposing tariffs on $60 billion in Chinese goods and limiting China’s ability to invest in the U.S. technology industry Thursday, saying the moves were a response to Beijing’s history of forcing U.S. companies to surrender their trade secrets to do business in China.

The president directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer to announce within 15 days a proposed list of products to be hit with tariff increases. After a public comment period, the final list, designed to target Chinese products that benefited from improper access to U.S. technology, will be made public.

“We’re doing things for this country that should have been done for many, many years,” the president said before signing a memorandum setting in motion the trade actions.

The president blamed China for the loss of 60,000 factories and 6 million jobs, a number that most economists say blends the impact on U.S. employment of both Chinese competition and automation.

Trump said that unfair Chinese trade practices are responsible for the yawning U.S. trade deficit with China, which has reached a record $375 billion on his watch.

But China is fighting back in trade areas that the US is vulnerable.

CNBC: China responds to Trump tariffs with proposed list of 128 US products to target

  • China on Friday announced plans for reciprocal tariffs on 128 U.S. products that include pork, wine, fruit and steel.
  • Beijing said it will take measures against the U.S. goods in two stages if it cannot reach an agreement with Washington

China’s commerce ministry proposed a list of 128 U.S. products as potential retaliation targets, according to a statement on its website posted Friday morning.

Recent U.S. trade actions severely damage the multilateral trading system and disturb the international trading order, China’s commerce ministry said, urging Washington to resolve its issues with Beijing to avoid harming the bilateral relationship.

There’s some irony here regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The US joined the TPP in part to improve it’s influence in the Pacific trade region to combat China’s growing influence. Trump withdrew the US from the TPP as soon as he became president last year.

If the US-China trade war comes to actual blows, and the US imposes tariffs on member countries of the TPP (now signed by eleven countries as the CPTPP), this may strengthen China’s hand in the region.

To further confuse things – Mnuchin: US to consider TPP re-entry after other priorities

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says that the United States will consider rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership after it deals with other priorities.

The other priorities seem to be threatening tariffs and raising the prospects of trade wars.

Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement last year, but the remaining 11 members pressed ahead and recently signed a sweeping free trade deal in the Chilean capital.

Mnuchin said Wednesday that the Trump administration is focused on talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

That’s odd, because the two countries the US is renegotiating with, Canada and Mexico, are in the TPP. If they renegotiate NAFTA it could be difficult to then bring that in to the TPP.

Businesses like certainty on things like trade so they can plan into the future. US farmers need to know which crops are worth planting in future seasons. US car manufacturers would like to know how much their steel is going to cost. It may depend on which country they import steel from, and what Trump ends up deciding. Companies like Apple that do a lot of their manufacturing in China are likely to be anxious about the outcome of the escalating trade threats.

Things like international trade are a lot more complex than running a reality TV show where dramas every week keep the ratings up – and there a more than just one host running the world show.

Some things Trump does may turn out for the god of the US and possibly for the greater good, but there’s just as likely to be negatives, and one bad misstep could precipitate a major negative.

Stock markets often recover from temporary upheavals, but sometimes they don’t.

Express: Trump trade war threat sends world markets PLUNGING: Dow Jones, FTSE, Dax and CAC all drop

DONALD Trump’s trade war threats has caused a global stock market crisis with the Dow Jones, FTSE, Dax and Cac all plunging.

The US President is on the verge of slapping tariffs worth $60billion on China, sending investors fleeing towards safer currencies.

The levies for Chinese products would be the “first of many”, Mr Trump said yesterday as he confirmed they would be going ahead.

Reverberations have been felt throughout numerous stock markets.

The US share market steadily rose through last year, but since Trump has been throwing around trade threats and tariffs it has become a lot bumpier, and has dropped from it’s highs (and trump has stopped claiming credit for the trends).

Dow Jones over the last twelve months:

That shows a slight recover so far today after a significant trade war affected drop on Thursday. It shows a bumpy track over the last two months.

UPDATE: The Dow Jones finished the day down 1.77%, to a 3 month low.

Trump’s bluster and brinkmanship  is a very risky game.

 

 

GOP senators versus Trump’s TPP and trade tirades

Yesterday in New Zealand the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) was released. Next month it is likely to be signed by the eleven countries who renegotiated some parts of the agreement after Donald Trump pulled the United States out soon after becoming president.

Trump had strongly criticised the TPP during the presidential campaign. It’s hard to know whether he thought it was a ‘bad bad deal’ or it was an attempt to sound tough on trade in order to get more favourable deals.

If it was a bluff it failed, because the TPP is proceeding without the US.

Last month (26 January 2018) Trump appeared to soften his stance on the TPP in an interview with CNBC while at DAVOS: Read President Trump’s full remarks on trade deals to CNBC

  • In an interview with CNBC, he says he could rethink the Trans-Pacific Partnership if the U.S. can secure a better deal.

Trump’s remarks on the TPP:

Trump: I like bilateral, because if you have a problem, you terminate. When you’re in with many countries — like with TPP, so you have 12 if we were in — you don’t have that same, you know you don’t have that same option. But somebody asked me the other day, ‘Would I do TPP?’ Here’s my answer — I will give you a big story. I would do TPP if we made a much better deal than we had. We had a horrible deal. The deal was a horrible deal. NAFTA’s a horrible deal, we’re renegotiating it. I may terminate NAFTA, I may not — we’ll see what happens. But NAFTA was a — and I went around and I tell stadiums full of people, I’ll terminate or renegotiate.

(NAFTA is an agreement between the US and two TPP countries, Canada and Mexico. Trump insisted on it being renegotiated, but that appears to be bogged down. See below.)

Kernen: So you might re-enter, or? Are you opening up the door to re-opening TPP, or?

Trump: I’m only saying this. I would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal. The deal was terrible, the way it was structured was terrible. If we did a substantially better deal, I would be open to TPP.

Kernen: That’s interesting. Would you handicap … ?

Trump: Are you surprised to hear me say that?

Kernen: I am a little bit, yeah, I’m a little taken aback.

Trump: Don’t be surprised, no, but we have to make a better deal. The deal was a bad deal, like the Iran deal is a bad deal, these are bad deals.

Yesterday the Washington Post reports: 25 GOP senators urge Trump to restart TPP trade talks, a deal he called a ‘disaster’

Twenty-five Republican senators, including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), sent President Trump a letter Friday asking him to “re-engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” It’s the latest attempt by Republican lawmakers to get Trump to take a softer stance on trade, even though his administration is gearing up to erect more trade barriers. Trump withdrew from the TPP in his first week in office after calling the trade deal a “disaster” and a “rape of our country” during his presidential campaign.

“We encourage you to work aggressively to secure reforms that would allow the United States to join the agreement,” the senators wrote. “Increased economic engagement with the 11 nations currently in TPP has the potential to substantially improve the competitiveness of U.S. businesses, support millions of U.S. jobs, increase U.S. exports, increase wages, fully unleash America’s energy potential, and benefit consumers.”

There is a sharp divide between congressional Republicans and the Trump administration on how to handle trade. Trump blasted America’s trade deals during his campaign and vowed he would either renegotiate many deals or scrap them, but many senators believe harsh action on trade would backfire, causing the loss of U.S. jobs and businesses.

Ripping up the TPP was a key talking point of Trump’s campaign. He portrayed it as a deal that President Barack Obama and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton concocted. It would lower tariffs — better known as taxes — on goods traded between the United States and 11 other countries in the Pacific Rim (Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Brunei).

Supporters of free trade, including many Republicans, worried that Trump had made a mistake. They feared the United States was giving up its leadership role and ceding even more power to China. China was excluded from the TPP in an attempt to counter the communist country’s growing influence on the global economy.

After the United States pulled out of TPP in January 2017, Canada took over the leadership role.

Actually Japan probably took over more of a leadership role, and Canada caused a few hiccups in Vietnam last November, but eventually agreed on the CPTPP.

Many of the GOP senators who signed the letter are from states with a lot of agriculture, including Joni Ernst of Iowa, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

“Farm states were a lot of the big losers from the United States not going ahead with TPP,” said Chad Brown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “TPP would have lowered agriculture tariffs in a couple of countries where they had been high.”

Perhaps the best example is that Japan was willing to lower its tariffs on U.S. beef, opening a potentially lucrative market for American farmers. But now that the TPP is moving forward without the United States, Australian and New Zealand farmers probably will be the biggest beneficiaries.

Yesterday the Canadian Globe and Mail reported in Where do NAFTA talks go from here?:

“We got a blunt and sobering message last week from Steve Verheul, Canada’s head NAFTA negotiator, telling us that negotiations with the Americans are bogged down and, apart from some agreement on peripheral things, there’s absolutely no movement on the really tough issues.

The fundamental problem, Mr. Verheul said, is that the United States isn’t approaching the negotiations with the objective of concluding a balanced deal. The Trump administration’s position is “America First” and “America Only,” reflecting the tone of the President’s bellicose inaugural address.

As a result, the United States has tabled one-sided, intransigent positions, non-starters for Canada from day one. U.S. negotiators have no room to compromise because of orders from the White House. It’s clear that there’s a long, slow and painful road ahead in trying to achieve a North American free-trade deal, with agreement pretty remote at this stage.”

The US also faces trade problems in Europe. Forbes – EU Tells Trump: No Paris Climate Deal, No Free Trade

When Donald Trump took office last year, the assumption was that the transatlantic trade and investment partnership was dead.

The controversial free trade deal between the EU and the U.S., known as TTIP, was already years in development and was a big focus in Europe, particularly with left-wing protesters who said the EU would necessarily have to lower its environmental, health and safety standards to American levels. When Trump was elected on an anti-free-trade platform in 2016, these activists found themselves in the uncomfortable position of being on the same side as the new U.S. president.

Work on TTIP has come to a halt, although the European Commission has been keen to stress that it is not officially dead and talks could continue if the U.S. administration were to indicate interest. No such signal from Washington has been forthcoming.

It is in this context that France’s foreign affairs minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne told the French Parliament last week that his country will insist that TTIP never be revived if Trump carries through on his promise to leave the Paris Agreement.

“One of our main demands is that any country who signs a trade agreement with EU should implement the Paris Agreement on the ground,” Lemoyne said. “No Paris Agreement, no trade agreement. The U.S. knows what to expect.”

The US under Trump’s leadership is at risk of isolating itself on trade as the rest of the world continues to negotiate and make trade agreements.

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.

Most parties support improved TPP

New Zealand looks set to join ten other countries in signing a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in Chile in March, although after being a strong advocate National say they want to see the final text before giving their full approval.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the revisions have substantially improved the agreement, but it’s probably closer to being a few final tweaks.

It has been reported that Ardern has spent some time over the holiday period encouraging Canada’s Justin Trudeau to get on board after backing away late last year. Canada look like they could lose the NAFTA agreement (with the USA and Mexico) so being left out of the TPP would have isolated them more.

NZ First say they will now support the agreement.

Greens say they will still oppose it, but the three larger parties plus ACT make up most of the votes in Parliament.

Jane Kelsey and a few others will continue opposing the deal, probably regardless of what is changed.

There may be some protests but I think they will be nothing like the protests here in 2016 – Labour won’t be organising protests against themselves obviously, and while the Greens remain opposed they are likely to be far less active acting against the interests of the Government they are now a part of.

Most voters are unlikely to care much, and are unlikely to be motivated to moan.

So it looks like a done deal that will get approved by a select committee, ratified by Government and signed in Chile in March.

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.

 

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-11 “down to the wire”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is now in Vietnam where Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations are “down to the wire”,  reported to be near agreement but held up at the last minute by one country (not New Zealand).

RNZ earlier today: Ardern: TPP talks down to the wire

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has arrived at the APEC summit saying talks to conclude the Trans Pacific Partnership are “down to the wire”.

Trade ministers of the 11 countries involved, including New Zealand’s David Parker, have been meeting on the sidelines of Apec at Danang in Vietnam.

New Zealand wants to drop the provisions on foreign corporations suing governments using overseas tribunals, but Ms Ardern admitted it had been tough going convincing others.

“I don’t want to predict what way it will go. There are a number of issues still on the table. Not all of them are ours.

“We are pursuing our interests but other countries certainly have their issues they continue to pursue. We of course are continuing to focus on both trying to balance our exporters’ needs but also our country’s.”

Ms Ardern doubted a TPP deal could be be done if if there was no agreement today.

But after apparently getting close to agreement there has been a setback. RNZ: ‘It’s not New Zealand holding up the consensus’ – Parker

The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been put at peril by one country after leaders came achingly close to striking a deal last night.

Officials are now scrambling to revive the stalled trade pact after a series of meetings in Vietnam.

Mr Parker said Labour had got “some of what we wanted” and the issue had been “improved but not completely resolved”.

“We’ve made it clear that for the future we’re not on for [investor-state dispute settlement] clauses.”

Government leaders will resume their talks this evening New Zealand time.

Speaking in Danang, Trade Minister David Parker said ministers thought a deal had been struck when their meeting finished about 10pm on Thursday night.

But in a “somewhat surprising” development, once it was passed on to officials, it emerged one country was still holding out.

“There was celebratory clapping and back-slapping,” Mr Parker said.

“It was then turned over by ministers to officials … and one of the parties said that they had not reached agreement.”

Mr Parker would not name the country responsible, but denied it was either New Zealand or Canada.

“It’s not New Zealand holding up the consensus. We reached agreement.”

Talks will resume this evening (NZ time) to try and get the agreement over the line,

NZ First plans with Russia puts EU trade at risk

A trade concern has emerged out of the coalition agreement between Labour and NZ First that could potentially put future trade opportunities with the European Union at risk.

NZH:  Winston Peters’ plans to reopen trade with Russia raises alarm from Europe

KEY POINTS:

  • Buried detail in Labour-NZ First coalition agreement calls for thawing of relations with Russia, on ice since invasion of Crimea and Ukraine.
  • EU Ambassador critical of move to break ranks on sanctions and warns of consequences for EU-NZ free trade negotiations.
  • Commentators say pursuing policy of warmer relations with Russia would position New Zealand alongside Trump administration.
  • Winston understood to have met several times with Russian ambassador over the past year.

New Zealand First’s plans to reopen trade negotiations with Russia have sparked the new Government’s first international crisis.

The unheralded policy this week drew an unusually forthright and undiplomatic rebuke from European Union ambassador Bernard Savage.

At a briefing on Tuesday in Wellington, Savage said any moves made towards thawing relations with Russia would be viewed in a “very negative” light.

The policy, written into the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement at the urging of the smaller party, risks harming relations with one of our largest trading partners in order to enhance those with one of our smallest.

According to 2016 figures the European Union is our third-largest trading partner with a total of $20 billion in imports and exports each year, while two-way trade with Russia currently amounts to only $417 million.

Savages told those attending that reactivating the stalled Russia deal – suspended since 2014 – would complicate New Zealand’s efforts later this year to secure a free trade deal with the EU.

This will take some careful managing by the Government. It is complicated by split responsibilities between Labour (David Parker as Minister of Trade) and NZ First (Winston Peters as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

This is on top of conflicting aims between Labour and the Greens on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Talks on TPP minus USA

In May Japan surprisingly indicated an interest in reviving the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Talks get under way in Japan this week without the US.

Donald Trump withdrew the US from the TPP as soon as he became president.

RNZ:  Japan’s change of heart on TPP good for English

The commitment of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the Trans-Pacific Partnership clearly came as a surprise to both Mr English and his Trade Minister Todd McClay.

In terms of Shinzo Abe’s sudden decision to get back on the TPP-train Mr English credits Mr McClay’s work getting around the region talking up the agreement and trying hard to convince the other remaining 10 nations that it’s worth sticking with.

It may be Mr McClay’s hard work that helped convince the Japanese, but it is also true that Japan is increasingly nervous about its rogue neighbour, North Korea.

The TPP is both a trade deal and a strategic deal and with Japan having it written into its constitution that it can’t use war as a means to settle international disputes, it needs strong allies – hence its obvious preference at having a deal which involves the United States.

Mr Abe wants the TPP text to remain as it is, which means the United States will get the benefits of the agreement even if it isn’t signed up.

But it also means it is easy enough for the United States to rejoin the grouping should it wish to in the future.

Either way the change of heart by the Japanese looked good for Mr English after his first major meeting in Asia as Prime Minister.

Now: TPP reps meet in Japan ahead of APEC

Countries that signed up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have sent representatives to Japan to work on an agreement this week – without the United States.

They’re hoping to have a proposal ready for trade ministers at November’s APEC meeting in Vietnam.

With continuing uncertainty over trade policy under the Trump administration in the US, there’s rising interest in how a regional trade deal might increase security.

New Zealand’s Trade Minister Todd McClay said economic and strategic benefits went hand in hand.

He said countries that traded with each other and were integrated economically were usually good friends.

“If you look over a period of time, it’s not the only reason, but often that’s why regions have been destabilised – when you don’t have that balance around opportunity and growth.”

There was more to trade and trade agreements that just people buying and selling, he said.

If there is a change in government in September I wonder if there will be a change in approach to the TPP.

One of the points of opposition to the TPP was giving concessions to the US.