“Trade For All” consultation lacks credibility while negotiations on old model continue
‘The “Trade for All” consultation announced by the Prime Minister today is predictably underwhelming and lacks
credibility’, says University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey.
It has taken almost a year for the government to announce a decision to establish a Trade for All board, whose
membership is yet to be determined. The new ‘Trade for All’ policy is to be announced in June next year, eighteen months
after the government came to power.
The long list of current negotiations the Prime Minister read out today confirms it is ‘business as usual’ in a raft of
large-scale negotiations that put ‘trade with all’ way ahead of ‘trade for all’, according to Professor Kelsey.
‘There is nothing that reflects the new “trade for all” agenda in the current negotiations. Nothing to address the “loss
of confidence in the trade agenda” that the Prime Minister referred to, let alone to rebuild that confidence. Nor is
there anything to “spread the benefits evenly”.’
‘It is worrying that the Prime Minister aims to ensure New Zealand’s values and sovereignty were not “unduly compromised” in the quest for more market access. But the shroud of secrecy continues, leaving us in a “trust me” zone
with a government that has given us no grounds to do so’.
Professor Kelsey expects changes to the negotiating mandate in the Pacific Alliance on gender, small and medium
enterprises, and regional development to result in ‘rhetorical clip-ons’ that do nothing to counter the negative impacts
on them of the far-reaching chapters on services, investment, intellectual property or government procurement.
‘Reports from both the Pacific Alliance and the RCEP negotiations suggest that even the promised exclusion of
investor-state dispute settlement will not be achieved’.
Most of these current negotiations were begun by National. Labour and NZ First have continued them. PACER-plus, which is
currently before the House, is the product of a decade long process begun by a previous Labour government. Professor
Kelsey describes the final deal as ‘a mockery of claims to be pro-development’. The two largest Pacific island
countries, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, refused to sign.
The Prime Minister pointed to the new negotiations with the European Union as the first initiative under Trade for All –
a slogan the EU itself coined several years ago.
But Professor Kelsey notes that the European version has met similar scepticism from civil society, academics and
politicians who are concerned about growing inequalities, financial and job instability, consolidation of corporate
power and a corresponding loss of regulatory sovereignty.
To fill the void of genuine alternatives coming from the government, a number of organisations, including the New
Zealand Council of Trade Unions, It’s Our Future, Doctors for Healthy Trade, and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation
will co-convene a two-day hui at the University of Auckland on 19-20 October to discuss ‘What an Alternative and
Progressive Trade Strategy Should Look Like’. More information on that hui will be available shortly.