Greens: Making Trade Work for All

Guest Post: Barry Coates MP, Green Party’s Spokesperson for Trade

Trade is important for New Zealand. We need to be able to export our products and services and benefit from international capital. However, it is important that trade benefits all New Zealanders. The Greens are calling for trade that is fair and sustainable, supportive of our small businesses and subject to democratic accountability.

We need a strategy to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead. The government is chasing regional and bilateral agreements, notably the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement without the US (TPP-11). There are three problems with this approach:

  1. Treaties need to be of good quality: The TPPA was not a “gold standard” agreement as was promised – access for dairy into the US market was equivalent to three large NZ dairy farms. The TPPA did not include subsidies, the major threat to New Zealand agricultural exports (eg. the US Farm Bill 2014 allows subsidies of up to 40% of dairy production costs). As a small country, New Zealand should champion the WTO and multilateralism in trade, rather than a ‘spaghetti bowl’ of differing rules.
  2. Deals like TPPA extend far beyond trade: They include patents, copyright, government procurement, services such as education and health, State Owned Enterprises, the internet and E-commerce, local government, visas for workers, foreign investment and purchases of land and assets, and restrictions on the rights of future governments to regulate (even on a non-discriminatory basis).

These issues intrude deeply into the lives of most New Zealanders. Trade negotiations have been undertaken with excessive secrecy, unlike other international treaties. It is unsurprising that a majority of the New Zealand public surveyed in February 2016 opposed the TPPA. The Green Party would ensure there is a more inclusive process for negotiations and approval of trade agreements, including public and Parliamentary scrutiny.

The Green Party would not include the rights of foreign investors to sue our government (Investor State Dispute Settlement – ISDS) in future trade agreements. Most of the 700+ ISDS cases to date have challenged laws protecting the environment, and cases have embodied poor judicial processes. India, Indonesia and South Africa are unwinding ISDS, the EU has rejected ISDS, and the US has signalled it wants to remove ISDS from NAFTA.

  1. Trade agreements need to be fit for the future. These agreements bind future governments and are difficult if not impossible to change. Yet we are living in an era of rapid change. Flexibility is needed, without the restrictions on regulation that are embodied in treaties like the TPPA (eg. the TPPA did not mention climate change in 5000+ pages of the TPPA).

The Green Party is standing on a platform of fair and sustainable trade. We will:

  • protect our environment and put a price on greenhouse gas emissions
  • invest in a low emissions economy through a Green Infrastructure Fund
  • promote innovation. restore R&D tax credits and support small business
  • introduce a Capital Gains Tax, excluding the family home, and boost productive investment
  • enhance our clean green brand internationally and achieve higher value added exports
  • work with business to promote business sustainability and higher productivity

We look forward to working with the business community to ensure that our businesses succeed internationally and our economy raises living standards for all.

Comments welcome:


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