Barry Coates on the TPPA, Green Issues and Political Vision

Interviewed by Tim LynchMarch 18, 2015
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TPPA = The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. You are having to trust people who are politicians?

When you say to New Zealanders that the TPPA is vehicle in which the NZ Government is giving away our powers so that Multi National Corporations can sue our government in an unaccountable secretive un-transparent International Tribunal over our democratically agreed laws and policies … they find this hard to believe - that we have this shockingly bad judicial process that can trump NZ’s own judicial process which lies on very sound principles.

Those who are awake see this as very dangerous as they are changing the nature of democracy as well as changing the nature of society here in NZ. If we as a unified Nation do not take a stand, then so many of the things we assume that are central to NZ, like democracy and fairness, like our once highly thought of moral compass that decides our own policies and laws – these are now in the throes of being given away.  As well as the right to privacy and all the secret surveillance issues.

This is not like a normal trade agreement. A normal trade agreement is about tariffs and quotas, yes we have some advantages to gain when we get our exports into other countries for lower tariffs, however we must also be careful that Trade Agreements do not undermine human rights, or the environment or workers rights.

But, what has happened in recent years is that tariffs are already fairly low, yet what Governments and the large Corporations have done is that they are using the Trade Agreements in order to make them as a vehicle for Rights for Corporations on investment and in challenging Government regulation.

Thus, from a Corporations point of view they can go wherever they like in the world and the fewer barriers they have to making profits the better for them. However, if we turn this around and ask what are these barriers? Then we find these barriers are environmental regulations, public health regulations, or they support State Owned Enterprises as well as myriads of things that we have as rules on the national economy, which in Corporate terms get in the way of business or in their words they are non trade barriers.

And what the veiled TPPA is about is that it is endeavouring to remove all those barriers  and that’s what most of this agreement is about. Note: Only 5 of the 29 chapters are what we would call trade – most of it is about investment and regulations. And we would not have known about this except for a leak that came into the public hands.

NZ has had a very bad history of regulation when you go through the list, of the West Coast Pike River tragedy and Christchurch’s CTV building collapse, and especially leaky homes and the 60 plus finance companies collapsing right across this country – all of these cases were a result of very shoddy regulations by Government, that end up that you the public and we as individuals paying big time for these oversights.

For a long time we have been dealing with the rhetoric around deregulation, liberalisation, to get Government out of the economy etc. Yet, people around the world know that the Government has to set the rules as to how to run the economy as the rules are so important - so that every one plays fairly so that society is protected from excesses by Corporations who know how to take expedient short cuts. And, we have suffered from these rules but where this all connects together is within the secret TPP Agreement in that, the concealed TPP Agreement exists in order to get rid of many if not most of these rules!

The most dangerous of these is called the - Investor State Dispute Settlement Mechanism - and this allows corporations to challenge Government laws and regulations. (Seeing corporations can get extremely low interest loans, at around 1% they are cash rich and have huge resources to put pressure on Governments, who are only resourced from the people). However these disputes are not settled in the domestic courts of the country involved but, it allows them to take it to an overseas / international tribunal which is composed of three people with rife conflicts of interests.

One day they can be a plaintiff for a Corporation and the next day they can be a judge on a case. The judicial processes are extremely poor. (Read corrupt)  Thus, this tribunal has the ability to take decisions that can override Government policies and laws and overrule the decisions of our own domestic courts.

They reach right into the heart of the Governments right to regulate for the public interest. You may have heard that Phillip Morris the giant cigarette corporation taking the Australian Government to court because the Australian Government put a requirement for plain packaging on cigarette packets - for very good public health reasons and they have been taken to a tribunal under an obscure Trade Agreement that Australia had already signed with Hong Kong.

Under the secretive TPPA these kind of situations will become far more common because instead of having agreements signed with developing countries as most of the Investor State Disputes Settlements are, they are really going to be signed with very large litigious Multinational Corporations from the USA, Japan, Canada, Australia and other countries.

And we have already had an explosion of cases going to court such as the Government of Quebec in Canada wanting to put a moratorium and halt fraking for very good reasons and were taken to an International Tribunal.  The German Government wanted to phase out nuclear power and they were taken to an International Tribunal. The government of Ecuador had real problems around non compliance of contract of oil Corporations and got sued for $2.3 billion US dollars which was about half of that countries health budget.

The French company Veiolia water currently provides contracted water and wastewater services in Papakura, Wanganui, Invercargill, Queenstown, Ruapehu, Thames-Coromandel, Waitomo and Wellington including running Auckland passenger Trains took the Government of Egypt to court over a packet of measures which included their not wanting to raise the minimum wage.

So all of these regulations on the environment, on genetically modified and engineered organisms on fraking or Public Health issues is going to be a real big challenge for NZ because of PHARMAC because, it as a one stop Government Agency, buying in bulk from the most cost affective sources, and not buying from the overly exorbitant prices of the ubiquitous Corporates.  PHARMAC delivers a huge amount of benefit to the NZ economy. Around half a billion dollars a year and the TPPA will certainly restrict it, forcing it and NZ to buy expensive medicines. And the US is using the TPPA as a means to get far more generous patent rights for their big pharmaceutical Corporations and as a result we will end up paying far more for our medicines.

We are still not sure of most of the detail as we are relying on some leaks of a few chapters. What we do know is that NZ is unlikely to get benefits for our agricultural markets. The US Department of Agriculture in a report stated that NZ's increased agricultural benefit in exports would be of 0.01%  of our GDP that’s 100th of 1% and for this benefit, NZ will be taking on a massive amount of risk in this Investor State Dispute Settlement Mechanism and potential costs like more expensive medicines, like restrictions on the internet, like the extension of copyright and a whole raft of measures.

Everyone in NZ should be majorly concerned about this agreement, NZ companies too, because this TPPA gives foreign multi nationals unfair advantages to compete against us already, such as extremely low interest rates sourced from overseas banks and then putting their profits in overseas tax havens out of the reach of the NZ Government and using transfer pricing to reduce the amount that they have to pay in tax.

These terms are just not available to NZ companies. So NZers should be worried about all these advantages that are being given to foreign investors. Where we need to be seriously looking at building a more resourced and stronger local economy, one that is robust and sustainable and not making a fetish of expectation of overseas foreign investment when NZ's economy needs to be built from the grass roots up by local companies based around the concept of the the Ecology of Commerce.

By embracing the TPPA, we are supporting the club, led by the USA, which has actually climbed on board the original Free Trade Agreement and hijacked it by taking it over, a Free Trade Agreement that was originally just between NZ, Brunei, Singapore and Chile. The  membership of this club means we get pushed into sending troops to Iraq etc. Our compete immersion now into the Five Eyes Surveillance System and spying on our Pacific neighbours.

The price being part of the club is way too high, (and if we find the situation deepening with American policy towards Russia, we for the 2nd time become a Nuclear target once again). So we in Nuclear Free NZ need to be far more independent - in our foreign policy, in our trade policy, in international politics and looking out for what is really beneficial for our economy and society.

The TPPA rallies in 22 cities across NZ are a start, but then we have to spread this at local community level and talk it up at the table, at the club, the pub, the cafes and after sports events. We need to mobilise a huge groundswell across NZ so as to challenge our Government on this issue.

The EU has forced the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to be released and are available so that people can comment - At the European Parliament’s insistence, the European Commission committed to enhanced transparency and agreed to publish the EU position documents. It also decided to grant all MEPs access to the restricted negotiating documents with the use of a special ‘reading room’. They are not allowed to share these documents publicly but they can get a real insight into the progress of the talks.

The interview also covers:

Sustainability and a far more holistic way we look at the ecology and the environment. That their importance is paramount to our collective future.

Addressing extreme inequality in NZ.
Climate change - a strategic threat to NZ, our society and globally. As Naomi Klein Kline clearly states in her book -This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

GE & GMO challenges here in NZ, that Vandana Shiva, Eric Giles Sirilini and Don Huber recent tour here in NZ needs to be followed up on.

The industrialisation of agriculture and the squeezing out of small farmers.

Censorship by ommission in mainstream media becoming more pervasive.

Education becoming more limited.

NZ has a reputation about the quality of our food and we will be eroding it quickly with industrial agriculture.

At present New Zealand is being used as a dumping ground for major quantities of both GE soy and maize (dried distillers grain DDG) to be used for calf, pig and chicken feed. Since China has refused to import DDG due to its unapproved safety status, New Zealand has jumped at the opportunity to import the cheaper untested GE product for its animals. Therefore, has NZ's milk and dairy produce been contaminated as well as pork and chickens and eggs? Are GE markers going to show up when this food is tested? If China finds these GE markers in baby formula is Fonterra's market share going to nose dive and NZ's farmers find that they have self sabotaged their collective future, as well as that of the children and grandchildren of today and tomorrow?

Marketing:  NZ food overseas is marketed as a commodity product, not as a value added or even boutique food. We need to get savvy here.

We need to promote knowledge intensive businesses, and deep thought to consequences. Find other ways to fund tertiary education and not give students any debt. How can a country that exports billions of $ in food have so many children going to school hungry?

The book The Spirit Level is a very good insight to the way humanity is, by showing compassion and helping the community to grow healthily.  The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, by Richard G. Wilkinson

Ending poverty and giving girls the opportunity to take care of their reproduction rights as well as tackle issues like violence against women.

NZ has become very mean in giving aid compared with our GNP we are one of the lowest aid givers in the OECD countries.

Barry said that NZ is abjectly failing with the policies of the present Government when addressing climate change. That we are not taking our fair share of international responsibility.

Climate change is affecting virtually all of the people who did not have anything to do with causing it! They are the people of the developing world. A huge human rights crisis is in the making … A major requirement for leadership and vision, where at present there is none.

Transport needs to be fast tracked, with walking, cycling, public transport as well as usher in the year of electric cars and drive toward 100% renewable power as quickly as we can and NZ could do this.

Price on carbon, lower agriculture Co2 emissions and plant trees, find bio-harmonic ways to sequester carbon by supporting natural systems rather than any form of geo engineering.

Socially responsible investing, enabling a system that people can invest in like a certification system as in Fair Trade.

Conscious consumers  …

Reshaping the Corporates and encourage more pressure by consumers on Corporations and Governments to have them reigned in.

Follow up on Jules Pretty. He lives in the village of Nayland, England and is Professor of Environment and Society & Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Essex. Jules has written and edited several books on the braiding of nature and people, exploring the importance of place and the land for identity and health of individuals and cultures. Jules’ latest book, The Edge of Extinction.

This is the voice of a human being who deeply cares … especially when there are signs that the international community are not going to step up to the climate change crisis … this should be deeply worrying, especially for children and grandchildren.

This interview is from a person who has a wide hands-on knowingness of the challenges before us and the gumption to put his being on the line for future generations.

Barry Coates:

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Tim Lynch

Tim Lynch, is a New Zealander, who is fortunate in that he has whakapapa, or a bloodline that connects him to the Aotearoan Maori. He has been involved as an activist for over 40 years - within the ecological, educational, holistic, metaphysical, spiritual & nuclear free movements. He sees the urgency of the full spectrum challenges that are coming to meet us, and is putting his whole life into being an advocate for todays and tomorrows children. 'To Mobilise Consciousness.'

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