There is nothing 'free' about free trade
Last night, Law Professor Jane Kelsey launched a new book, 'No ordinary deal: Unmasking the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.' The book was launched by Prof Kelsey along with Lori Wallach from Global Trade watch and it presents a compelling case for concerted action against the trade deal (called the TPP) on labour, environmental, social justice and indigenous fronts.
The TPP negotiations are happening right now with a view towards being completed in November next year, in time for APEC. The TPP includes New Zealand, Australia, the US, Brunei, Chile, Peru, and Singapore. It may also include Japan, although the Japanese government is reticent about getting involved in the negotiations (see more about this below).
For New Zealand, the TPP does not hold any benefits whatsoever. New Zealand already has FTAs with all of the countries involved with the exception of the US. New Zealand is involved in these negotiations because Fonterra wants access to US markets to sell dairy. But anyone who knows anything about US politics, particularly about agricultural subsidies, will know that it will literally be a cold day in hell before the US opens dairy up to New Zealand.
What New Zealand stands to lose in those negotiations is, however, significant. In particular are rules written into these 'free trade agreements' which actually protect multination corporations and elevate them to the status of governments. The FTA will further expose New Zealand to privatisation, corporatisation and massive sell-off of natural resources and land. Meanwhile, Fonterra continues to destroy much of New Zealand's 'clean, green' environment with dirty dairying, polluting rivers, lakes and streams and adding more to NZ's climate change-causing emissions than anything else.
Japan has not entered these negotiations NOT because of it has subsidised agriculture (although that is no doubt an issue) but rather, as we heard last night, the fact that the US and EU have taken a case to the WTO against the Japanese government's decision not to privatise Japan Post - its postal services/community bank. The US and EU argue that Japan is in violation of the Trade in Services agreement (TRIPs) and MUST privatise it. Meanwhile, the Japanese public are opposed to the privatisation.
The TPP has serious implications for working people in New Zealand. Lori Wallach described how the template for all US FTAs is NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico). NAFTA has been responsible for the loss of approximately 50,000 manufacturing jobs in the US, and despite the access to 'cheaper products' workers are still $2000 worse off per year in real terms.While it could be argued that those jobs are now in Mexico, anyone with knowledge of the working conditions in maquiladores or 'export processing zones' would not promote this modern-day slavery. It is and has been, the race to the bottom for working conditions and the environment.
The fight against 'free trade' is a fight against global corporate power. It cannot be won by appealing to nationalism or protectionism, but in my view, must be fought with global solidarity of the world's people against both corporate power and the nation-states that seek to serve and enrich that power. Without a doubt, the fight must be had...
Jane Kelsey's book is available from Bridget Williams Books at all good local bookstores for $39.99
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