What the heck is this TPPA fuss about?

Wednesday 8 January 2014, 4:31PM
By Kel Lee

So we keep hearing mutterings about this Trans Pacific  Partnership Agreement (TPPA), but the majority of us aren't too sure what it's all about, really.  It seems pretty complicated and a wee bit uninteresting to be honest, and surely if it were controversial it would be all over the news, right?

A quick skim through the information  provided on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website seems to explain it, or does it?  Well, below is a simplified explanation of that information, feel free to cross reference.

The TPPA is a regional free trade agreement involving twelve countries within Asia and the Pacific Rim, and the United States.  It's a strategic economic partnership which will make future trading easier.  Our future depends on our economic relationship with these countries and if we don't join in our exporters will face real economic setbacks.

A study (no supporting evidence)  predicts this agreement could generate an estimated 0.9% gain in GDP in 2025, and a 6.8% increase in exports, and further gains due to a lift in the terms of trade and greater access to goods and services.

Er, well, we don't want economic setbacks for NZ, but these gains don't seem overly impressive, and what about possible risks? There are none listed, does this mean we have nothing to worry about? If these negotiations have been underway for so many years, there must be plenty more information and footage publicly available?

No. The negotiations have been in secret.  Why? Is this right? Do we have a right to know what our government is signing our country up for? 

The only information on negotiations that's available to the public is from leaked documents.

Now that we've looked into the benefits of this TPPA, let's examine the possible negatives. 

The potential risks to our people and our country are explained here:

* U.S wants copyright standards which would change our copyright laws here, this could end parallel imports, stifle innovation, seriously restrict the information available online.

* Opens our government, and future governments up to be sued by foreign investors. Loss of the freedom to manage our own affairs. It's binding and means we must conform our own policies to suit the rules.

* Affects non-trade matters too, such as food safety, the environment, medicine costs.

Should our government be addressing these concerns?  Do the risks outweigh the benefits? As a nation, are we paying enough attention to what's happening?  Your feedback is encouraged in the comments section below.