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There is nothing 'free' about free trade


Last night, Law Professor Jane Kelsey launched a new book, 'No ordinary deal: Unmasking the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.' The book was launched by Prof Kelsey along with Lori Wallach from Global Trade watch and it presents a compelling case for concerted action against the trade deal (called the TPP) on labour, environmental, social justice and indigenous fronts.

The TPP negotiations are happening right now with a view towards being completed in November next year, in time for APEC. The TPP includes New Zealand, Australia, the US, Brunei, Chile, Peru, and Singapore. It may also include Japan, although the Japanese government is reticent about getting involved in the negotiations (see more about this below).

For New Zealand, the TPP does not hold any benefits whatsoever. New Zealand already has FTAs with all of the countries involved with the exception of the US. New Zealand is involved in these negotiations because Fonterra wants access to US markets to sell dairy. But anyone who knows anything about US politics, particularly about agricultural subsidies, will know that it will literally be a cold day in hell before the US opens dairy up to New Zealand.

What New Zealand stands to lose in those negotiations is, however, significant. In particular are rules written into these 'free trade agreements' which actually protect multination corporations and elevate them to the status of governments. The FTA will further expose New Zealand to privatisation, corporatisation and massive sell-off of natural resources and land. Meanwhile, Fonterra continues to destroy much of New Zealand's 'clean, green' environment with dirty dairying, polluting rivers, lakes and streams and adding more to NZ's climate change-causing emissions than anything else.

Japan has not entered these negotiations NOT because of it has subsidised agriculture (although that is no doubt an issue) but rather, as we heard last night, the fact that the US and EU have taken a case to the WTO against the Japanese government's decision not to privatise Japan Post - its postal services/community bank. The US and EU argue that Japan is in violation of the Trade in Services agreement (TRIPs) and MUST privatise it. Meanwhile, the Japanese public are opposed to the privatisation.

The TPP has serious implications for working people in New Zealand. Lori Wallach described how the template for all US FTAs is NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico). NAFTA has been responsible for the loss of approximately 50,000 manufacturing jobs in the US, and despite the access to 'cheaper products' workers are still $2000 worse off per year in real terms.While it could be argued that those jobs are now in Mexico, anyone with knowledge of the working conditions in maquiladores or 'export processing zones' would not promote this modern-day slavery. It is and has been, the race to the bottom for working conditions and the environment.

The fight against 'free trade' is a fight against global corporate power. It cannot be won by appealing to nationalism or protectionism, but in my view, must be fought with global solidarity of the world's people against both corporate power and the nation-states that seek to serve and enrich that power. Without a doubt, the fight must be had...

Jane Kelsey's book is available from Bridget Williams Books at all good local bookstores for $39.99

For more info, check out


In particular are rules

In particular are rules written into these 'free trade agreements' which actually protect multination corporations and elevate them to the status of governments.In particular are rules written into these 'free trade agreements' which actually protect multination corporations and elevate them to the status of governments.

The great pyramid scheme has run out of buyers and products to sell so it merely makes up new products, ficticious ones like credit default swaps and creates its own rules like those controlling the unregulated dark pools....$75 trillion NZ dollars worth of ficticious product at one point.

I guess it would be a bit more honest to actually officially recognise the new corporate dictatorships for the positions they actually inhabit. At the moment governments pretend not to be landlords for big corporates assets, maintaining that old paradym that they are the elected legislative and executive leaders of a country.

That is dishonest and it is about time they all came out of the closet and admitted that the primary function of governments these days are to facilitate and protect corporate assets and to upgrade laws to protect the rights of multinational corporations to the detriment of the masses.

Calling you out

First off: Can someone give me a coherent reasoned argument why free trade is bad?  And when I say coherent, I don't mean conspiracy theories about the how the church of scientology will end up controlling the world through transnational corporations, shadow directors and ninja assassins.  I mean an explanation about why dropping tariffs and removing subsidies is bad.  As far as I can tell, when a country doesn't make all the things that it needs and wants (and NZ doesn't), it has to trade with other countries. The mutual reduction in trade barriers should make that process easier and more efficient. How is that a bad thing?

Secondly: I don't mean to be patronising, but I think we need a primer on Credit Default Swaps, because they aren't the source of the world's financial woes. Credit default swaps are not some 'fictional product'. They are just a type of insurance. Insurance contracts transfer risk. Eg, car insurance transfers the risk that you ding your car to the insurance company, in exchange for a fee. Similarly, under a CDS the risk that a borrower will default is tranferred from a bondholder to the CDS counterparty. There is nothing inherently bad about a CDS, just like there is nothing inherently bad about insurance.

Thirdly: where did you pick up these conspiracy theories? What facts indicate to you that governments are mere corporate puppets? For what it's worth, I don't doubt that business has an influence on government. But I think it's far more complicated than saying business controls government.

Facts over fiction

@The Real Lentil

First off-your naivety is stunning!Conspiracy theories? You clearly don't understand agricultural trade ( NZ's main export -duhh!) with the US or Europe so get schooled up on it - Google is a good start!!!

And, yes, CDW's are a types of insurance-but normal insurance by banks and insurance company's is regulated, but the CDW market is NOT! Hence, nobody supervises trading and ensures that buyers have the resouces to cover the losses if the securities bomb (default). Throw in a good dose of greed and speculation (the human factor)and CDW's brought down the world's largest insurer, AIG. Yes, they ARE one of the main sources of the world's financial woes!!

Finally, read Wikileaks to finda out examples of corporates and their influence on Government. Start with Nigeria and Shell- and don't believe everything you read/hear in the popular media!