Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce has penned an open letter to TPP protesters:
An open letter to all TPP protesters,
I’ve been listening to you over the past few years, months and weeks. Last week I literally took it on the chin in defence of the TPP.
You have been accusing the Government of not opening up and giving information. So, I’d like to take the opportunity to set the record straight on a few matters.
I would like to make the point that trade access is hugely important for a small country like New Zealand. Without fair and equal trade access we can’t sell as many of our goods and we get less for them. And that means fewer jobs.
In particular it’s about jobs in regional New Zealand and in our small farming communities like those in the Far North who are hugely dependent on whether our farmers and exporters can sell their goods. And that it’s really hard selling meat into Japan with a 38.5% tariff on what the locals charge.
Investor state dispute resolution is hugely more likely to help New Zealand than hinder it. We already have an independent justice system that protects the legitimate activities of all sorts of companies including large multi-national ones so nothing much really changes for us unless we start doing something like nationalising companies at a fraction of their value. However having an independent process might be helpful for our companies in countries where the court system is perhaps not quite as independent.
Some people who have been really loud in this debate just reject the whole concept of trade. People like Jane Kelsey would roll back the China FTA, the Korean one, the South East Asia one, any one of them. Because they just really don’t like trade for ideological reasons. I would point out, that without the China FTA we would have been a very quiet country after the GFC. A country that would be able to afford far fewer of the medicines that some are rightly concerned about access to.
There are others who say that they support free trade, but not this deal. They try to say that this one is worse and yet can’t point to why. It was negotiated by the same fine officials that negotiated all the other deals, contains very similar clauses, and the same trade-offs. You can’t help feeling that for those people this is about politics, not trade. Perhaps they are grumpy that their lot is not signing the deal.
There are those who say it sacrifices our sovereignty. Well, how can that be so? We have the sovereign right to withdraw from any trade agreement at any time. There is no one holding us to any of them. However there is a reason that we tend not to leave. We’d have to give up the benefits as well as the costs and so far the benefits have obviously outweighed any costs every time.
There are even those who say it’s anti-democratic; even though the current government was elected more than once on supporting the TPP, and the elected parliament has to approve the legislation. The next logical democratic test would be for the loud fence-sitters of the Labour Party to go to the next election promising to scrap the TPP, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for that one.
There are also those that are opposed to the TPP because people don’t know enough about it. What a pity then that those at Te Tii Marae didn’t take up the rare opportunity of hearing from and discussing the issue with the elected leader of our country.
I too would have been happy to have this discussion last week and indeed just had it at the Iwi Leaders meeting, before one person decided the answer was to throw her toy.
The most important point I’d want to make is the reason behind why this government is doing signing this deal. Because every one of us cares about the future of this country. We want it to provide good jobs for our people, good security for our families, and a big enough national income that we can afford the best health care and the best education services. It is our sincere belief that this agreement will help us do that for New Zealanders.
I have been privileged to follow at close quarters the progress of this deal over many months. I think our negotiators have done a great job for New Zealand. We didn’t get everything we wanted, and nor do we ever. But the result of their work is that more Kiwis will have jobs and opportunities to bring up their families while living in this country. And that’s worth signing up for.
He also used the response to the Prime Ministers Statement to speak about the TPP:
The transcript is here:
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): Mr Deputy Speaker, firstly, may I say that I hope you had a good summer break. I hope it was relaxing. Mine was, thank you. I rode a horse, grew my vegetables, went to the Wairarapa and to the Hawke’s Bay and Coromandel. I went up north last week—pretty relaxing up there. I had a launch of the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan. We had a visit from the occasional visitor to Northland, the current MP Mr Peters. I also had, it is fair to say, a reasonably well-reported experience with an unmanned aerial vehicle.
It was an interesting day indeed at Waitangi. I have been thinking about that day on the odd occasion since, and I have been thinking about the protesters. I have been thinking about them because they have had, obviously, a lot to say—and fair enough, too; it is the nature of protest. But a lot of what they have had to say has been very interesting. Primarily, they have accused this Government of not opening up and giving information.
I think the Trans-Pacific Partnership is very important. I think it is one of the political fault lines about whether we are going to be forward-looking as a country, embracing the opportunities that the world provides to us in an open, competitive environment that gives our exporters and farmers a chance to succeed; or take a backward-looking, defensive position, where the world is out to get us and we should just try to crouch down and hope the world goes away, which is what some of the other Opposition politicians promote.
So I would like to devote a small amount of time this afternoon to making a few points about trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I would like to make the point that trade access is hugely important for a small country like New Zealand. It is not just important; it is hugely important. Without fair and equal trade access, we cannot sell as much of our goods, we get less for them, and that means fewer jobs and lower incomes.
In particular, it is about jobs in regional New Zealand, in our small farming communities like those in the far north that I visited last week, who are rightly looking for opportunities for their young people to be employed. It is about the people who know it is really hard selling meat into Japan with a 38.5 percent tariff over what the locals are able to sell it for. It is about the people who are trying to sell kiwifruit , or ice cream , into Trans-Pacific Partnership countries.
I heard the Leader of the Opposition pooh-poohing the dairy benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership today. Well, there is a small ice cream company on the Hauraki Plains , which has been started by international investors, that is providing jobs to those people who would appreciate the opportunity to sell ice cream into the US and Japan. I am told by the protesters about investor-State dispute resolutions. Well, that is hugely more likely to help New Zealand than hinder it. We already have an independent justice system that protects the legitimate activities of all sorts of companies, including large multinational ones, which, if they feel wronged, can go to court in this country.
Nothing will change for us, unless we start doing something like nationalising companies at, I do not know, 5 percent of their value—and then we would have other problems anyway. But the investor-State dispute settlement provides opportunities for New Zealand companies in countries where the court system is perhaps not quite as independent. Some people have been really loud in this debate, but reject the whole concept of trade. Why would you listen to Jane Kelsey if you are actually interested in trade? Give Jane her due: she hates trade agreements. She would roll back the China free-trade agreement, she would roll back the Korea free-trade agreement, she would roll back the South-east Asia free-trade agreement—any one of them—so why would you get advice from her? She is hardly likely to provide advice that is reasonable and balanced.
I would like to point out that without the China free-trade agreement we would have been a quiet country after the global financial crisis , a country that would be able to afford far fewer of the medicines that those protesters claim to be concerned about having access to. There are others who say that they support free trade, but not this deal. They try to say “This one is worse.”, but yet they cannot point to why it is worse. They keep talking about all sorts of things. It was negotiated by the same officials—including Tim Groser , who used to be an official—who negotiated all the other deals. It has similar trade-offs , similar clauses—and it is just not good enough, apparently. Perhaps they are grumpy that their lot did not sign the deal. I do not know. But that is a ridiculous way to approach the arrangement.
Then there are those who say it sacrifices our sovereignty. I had an experience, as we know, with somebody who said that—well, not quite in those words—last week. How can that be so? We have the sovereign right to withdraw from any trade deal at any time—any trade deal at any time. I understand that with the Trans-Pacific Partnership it is 6 months’ notice, then you are out. We never do withdraw, but why not? Because we would have to give up the benefits as well as the costs, and every single Government has said that the benefits are worth having, and they have not walked away.
Then there are those who even say it is anti-democratic, though the current Government has been elected—I do not know, once, twice, three times on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the elected Parliament has to approve the legislation. That is democracy. I have got an idea: if it is about democracy, why do the protesters not persuade the guy who is trying to sound like he agrees with them to actually go to the country in 2017 with a commitment to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a commitment to leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership? He should stop waffling around, and wander out there and say: “I’m with you, protesters. I agree with you. I’ll pull New Zealand out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” Then we can have a further democratic test about the future of this legislation.
The most important point I want to make today is the reason why this Government is doing this, because everyone on this side of the House cares about the future of this country. We wanted to provide good jobs for our people, security for our families, and a big enough national income so that we can afford the best health care , the best education services, and so on, that my friend the toy-thrower was worried about.
It is our sincere belief that this agreement will help do this for this country; otherwise, we would not be here. So I say to Andrew Little : at least the protesters have the excuse that they maybe do not know all there is to know about the agreement, but if you have been in this House, if you have been in the debate, you should be prepared to stand up for your country. He can stand up either way. He can stand up in favour, or stand up against, but enough of this mealy-mouthed going out—he spent half his speech, half his speech, nearly, saying how much he hated the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but on the radio this morning he was saying that he would support it and would not withdraw from it.
Well, I say that if you really want to show any sort of leadership, then step up and say you will pull out, sunshine, because your rhetoric does not match what you are actually doing. You are playing politics with the future of New Zealanders. His colleagues know it, and it is not good enough.
This will be an important year for New Zealand. They all are, but this is an important one. In this year this Government, the John Key Government, will focus on building the opportunities for New Zealand, growing the skills, growing the innovation, building our infrastructure, improving our natural resources allocation, attracting investment in this country, and, most important , providing export access to our farmers and to our businesses to be able to sell overseas.
That is crucially important, so for any naysayer on the other side who has a speech-writer trying to write up stories about this Government having a vision, I say: look in the mirror, it is you who are playing politics and have no vision for this country. Thank you.