Key and others talk nonsense on TPPA at APEC
21 November 2016
Key and others talk nonsense on TPPA at APEC: it’s not about Trump!
‘As political leaders from various Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) desperately dreamed up rescue packages at the APEC summit, they jettisoned any pretence this is about trade’, says University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey.
‘Talking up the prospect of some kind of TPPA is about justifying the political capital they have invested to push through a deeply unpopular agreement and defending the outdated ideology on which it is based.’
‘Their various options don’t bear scrutiny’ according to Professor Kelsey, ‘starting with the flippant suggestion from Prime Minister John Key that it will all be okay if they can flatter Donald Trump and get him to own the deal. Others said much the same, with Obama predicting Trump could abandon his anti-TPPA promise once in office, as Obama did about revisiting NAFTA.
But Kelsey observes that ‘this is not about Trump. The barrier to the TPPA in the US is the Congress. If Obama had the votes to support it, as he seems to have assured the other TPPA leaders, he would have put it through by now. He is short around 12 Republican votes. Analysts in Washington say the numbers get worse under the new Congress, with the House facing new elections in just two years. So forget the turnaround or the rebranding. The current deal is dead in America.’
‘Then we need to consider whether any of the countries have the stomach for a renegotiation with Trump to make more concessions when they have struggled to sell the current deal as the best outcome they could negotiate?’
‘The third idea - a TPPA without the US - is equally absurd.’ Professor Kelsey points out that all 12 parties would have to amend the existing rules for entry into force that require the US to be part. ‘Possibly Trump would do that. Or they could leave the current agreement in limbo and create a new one. ‘
Either way the deal would have to be renegotiated, adding to the sunk costs of nearly seven years’ negotiations. All the market access on autos, garments and agriculture, along with the rules of origin, are premised on US participation.
‘Why would any sane government voluntarily retain the suicidal chapters on intellectual property and state-owned enterprises that the US insisted on, knowing that would give US corporations the benefits for free?’, Kelsey asked.
‘And how could they claim such a deal has any economic credibility when the projected gains were so minimal even with the US involved and using studies that grossly inflated the outcomes?’
Either way the TPPA would not be the same as the agreement that just went through the Parliament. Standing Orders require a new or altered treaty to be tabled and reviewed by the select committee. The implementing legislation would have to be amended as well.
‘If National thought it was going to push a revised TPPA through without a fight, especially in an election year, it really does live on Planet Key. It is time to stop trying to defend the indefensible, including the negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) that are going to fill the TPPA vacuum’, Professor Kelsey said.