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Flavell: Tariff Amendment Bill

Tariff (Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership) Amendment Bill

Third Reading

Te Ururoa Flavell; Member of Parliament for Waiariki

Thursday 23 March 2006

I rise to make a few points based on process, contents and themes.

Forty-three minutes. That’s all it takes to sign away a managed approach to economic development in New Zealand’s first multi-party agreement with the Asia-Pacific region.

My understanding is that there were three submissions received which expressed concerns about the process and substance, with one stating the agreement was “ill-conceived and irresponsible” and another claiming the scrutiny given to the treaty was insufficient.

Comments were made on the limited time-frame, and the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade committee was urged to conduct an independent inquiry.

These comments reflected a context of criticism that the Government received when challenged about the secrecy of the process associated with establishing New Zealand’s closer economic partnership with Singapore.

And how did the committee respond?

They reported a ‘standard approach’ was used, in that they advertised for submissions in national newspapers.

It would seem to me that the level of opposition contained even in these three submissions on their own would have provoked the committee to take a more pro-active approach - not just apply the old standard formula.

Mr Speaker, it is hard to engender any confidence in how this agreement spanning four countries across Asia and the Pacific, will improve the strategic and economic opportunities for Aotearoa.

Māori Party Contribution to the Debate

In the first and second debates of this Bill, the Māori Party attempted to described tangata whenua history and experiences of strategic economic partnerships nation-to-nation. I myself talked about the impact this agreement could have on the Brunei indigenous communities, the effects of local identity becoming subsumed under flows of global trade, colonialism and assumptions of universalism.

My esteemed colleague, Dr Sharples, also raised the thorny question of definition and interpretation of treaty responsiveness - the application of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in international trade and tariff agreements.

Today, we want to focus more particularly on the international treaty examination that was undertaken in the report to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade committee.

Global liberalisation

The Māori Party has taken particular note of the advice and analysis provided by Professor Jane Kelsey from the Law Faculty at University of Auckland.

Professor Kelsey described the agreement as the latest attempt to bind the policy options of present and future New Zealand governments to a global liberalisation agenda that is facing a crisis.

She advised the Committee that global trade and investment liberalization is not delivering on poverty reduction and that the trade agreements restrict government’s ability to regulate in several areas.

Again the Committee’s response was fascinating in what it didn’t say. The report states

“The Government is aware of trends in the global political economy and the limits of what is possible for a small country”.

I’m wondering where are the references to poverty, a key outcome of agreements like this.

My research tells me that at the United Nations Millennium Development Summit in 2000, all nations agreed to put efforts into halving extreme poverty by 2015.

The Maori Party believes it is all about priorities. Global military expenditure last year was US $1,035 billion - on average more than US $2.8 billion every day.

The need for all governments, rich and poor, to reprioritise their spending to meet human security rather than military security has been agreed by United Nations member states since 1945, but has not been put into practice. By neglecting to mention it, we certainly don’t address it, let alone reduce poverty.

Policy by Omission

This tendency to fail to mention, to ignore, to be silent on the things that matter is a theme that we have been returning to, over and over again, in our scrutiny of Government policy.

When one looks for the word Maori in the international treaty examination for this Bill, and one has to look fairly hard, the references are all couched in the negative. So we hear:

“There is a general exception to ensure that the Trans-Pacific SEP will not prevent New Zealand from taking measures it deems necessary to fulfill its obligations to Māori, including under the Treaty of Waitangi”.

Rather than reflect - or support - the honouring of obligations it is worded in the negative - failing to prevent.

This is later diluted further:

Provided such measures are not used for trade protectionist measures, the Trans-Pacific SEP also gives successive governments the right to adopt measures they deem necessary in relation to Māori, including in fulfillment of Treaty of Waitangi obligations.

It may be just words….but one has to ask what sort of measures will be considered necessary in relation to Maori? Are we talking measures to advance Maori or to impede? Failure to name the positive means we will be forever hoping and hopeful that the opposite isn’t intended.

Following on this theme, in the cultural effects section of the international treaty examination, it notes that the Trans-Pacific SEP contains safeguards to ensure that there are no adverse effects on New Zealand cultural values including Māori interests.

The power to name your own world, to be clear in saying what we mean, and what we want, is absolutely central to self-determination.

To take it further, we asked the question yesterday in the House of the Government, what does it mean to ‘live and succeed as Maori?’

A simple enough question one would have thought.

And clearly one that most New Zealanders understood, as an UMR survey released on Tuesday reported there was strong overall agreement (66 percent agree; 12 percent disagree) to the statement that “in addition to having the same rights as all New Zealanders, Maori have the right to live as Maori”.

Clearly, the people know what it is to live as Maori.

So how did the Government respond?

The Minister of Justice’s response was that to live as Maori was to:

“fully participate in, and to have the economic, social, and cultural benefits of, a full, healthy, and wholesome life in New Zealand”.

Spot one little difference? The difference is the word Maori.

Well, another interpretation to live as Maori is from Dr Mason Durie:

“To have access to the Maori world, that is access to language, culture, marae, resources such as land, tikanga, whanau, and kaimoana. Being able to live as Maori means being able to identify oneself as Maori and to also be prepared to participate in Maori society. It is not simply to learn about Maori but also to live as Maori”.

Mr Speaker, it was not a trick question. The Maori Party has been watching the Minister of Finance exclude the word Maori from his budget; the Minister of Foreign Affairs exclude the word Maori from the policy on indigenous people; so we thought we would aim for third time lucky.

The celebrated Brazilian educator the late Paulo Freire believed that we should all have the freedom to name the world and that included the ‘voiceless’. He believed that possessing the ability to name the world inevitably meant that one could take action to intervene and transform the world.

Since coming in to this House I have become aware of the awesome power of the voices we have in naming and therefore defining the world. But the question I ask is “whose world is it that we are defining and who are we defining it for?”

The Maori Party stands on a platform of “giving voice to the voiceless”. While it is a Maori voice it has resonated like the haka with non-Maori. Our belief in the voiceless naming their world is what drives us to continually go back to our people, to listen to hear what they have to say and with them to act.

Being named out, rendered invisible, or couched in the negative is not an option. The Maori Party will stand up for the right to name Maori, in this Bill on strategic economic partnerships, and indeed in every sphere of influence we take up.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi means something to us - it brings with it rights and responsibilities that will not be ignored. We will not just focus on economic and trade partnerships without considering the impact on the people, particularly the indigenous peoples of the nations involved.

ENDS

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