The ‘John, call me, Barack’ game
Time and again the Government has wriggled, bluffed and huffed over any suggestions of real problems for us in super-secret trade talks involving the United States.
Very worried New Zealanders believe it should have been our government briefing us, not WikiLeaks.
Critics like this column have been accused of stirring up trouble where none exists. The US has patted us on the head with promises and giftwrapped goodies like allowing our tiny frigates to play war games with their monster fleet – even let us park in Pearl Harbour naval wharfs where we have been blacklisted since our nuclear ships ban.
And in return, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman handed his American counterpart, Chuck Hagel, the ultimate gift – an All Black jersey. Since then you-knowwhat has hit the fan.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade deal under long negotiation between 12 countries: New Zealand, US, Singapore, Chile, Brunei, Australia, Vietnam, Peru, Malaysia, Canada, Mexico and Japan.
Major US corporates have lobbied the White House to force us to alter our trade systems so that the good mates of the Obama power base will be the winners.
The fingerprints of Hollywood and the big drug cartels are all over the leaked 95-page draft which spells out major New Zealand disputes with the US in some of the agreement’s most contentious issues, like copyright, patent and pharmaceutical rules. Intellectual property is especially important to Hollywood and US pharmaceutical, biotechnology and entertainment corporations who clearly have a strong influence over the Obama administration’s trade policy.
New Zealand is one country leading the charge in the battle between the US pharmaceutical lobby and countries like us who want to go on, for instance, getting cheaper but effective generic medicines through Pharmac.
There are also mutterings over agricultural chemicals.
American pressure wants internet service providers to enforce copyright on behalf of foreign corporations, including closing down their customers’ accounts, overseas royalty payments on all books, music and films for 20 years longer than at present, restricting cheaper parallel importing, imposing penalties for breaking ‘‘digital locks’’ such as regional zones on lawful DVDs, allowing plants and animals to be patented and allowing ‘‘diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods for the treatment of humans or animals’’ to be patented.
An earlier WikiLeaks release of US embassy cables showed former New Zealand chief TPP negotiator Mark Sinclair privately telling visiting US State Department deputy assistant Frankie Reed in February 2010 that there were ‘‘a number of areas sensitive to New Zealand’’ in the TPP talks and pharmaceuticals were ‘‘bound to be a contentious issue’’. Three years on, there still are. When the US budget crisis forced Mr Obama to cancel an earlier trip to chair a meeting of 12 TPP countries in Bali, John Key took his place. And later got a ‘‘John, call me, Barack’’ phone call. The White House even issued a statement ‘‘to thank John Key for successfully chairing the meeting . . . and to discuss the productive outcomes’’.
‘‘The two leaders welcomed the agreement among leaders that the 12 member nations will work toward the ambitious goal of concluding negotiations this year and they committed to intensifying efforts to reach that goal.’’
Asked later what their relationship was like, John Key was full of it, like an only child who has just discovered a new best friend with real grown-up things to talk about:
‘‘It’s really warm. We know each other pretty well. We’ve been to lots of things together over the course of the last five years. He seems very relaxed and comfortable. It’s not stuffy. It’s conversational and casual.’’ But not too cosy, we hope, John. In the mailbag: Heather Johnson: ‘‘Thank you Pat Booth for drawing attention to the significant inequalities that many Maori face in the column ‘Eye-opening day in the life of Tama’. I think that the issues that Tama has to deal with on a daily basis stem from two main sources.
‘‘First, the so-called bicultural partnership between Maori and the state is not sufficient. The fact that some Maori still feel uncomfortable in settings such as medical clinics reflects the social, cultural, economic and political marginalisation of tangata whenua in New Zealand.
‘‘A real bicultural relationship should be about appreciating and practising both cultures. Instead we live in a country where Maori culture and world views are not seen as valuable. For example, unlike English, te reo Maori is not even a compulsory subject in schools. I feel we can learn things from both cultures and benefit greatly by creating a new framework that values both Pakeha and Maori culture, and at the same time, respecting other cultural differences.
‘‘Secondly, and perhaps more urgent, is the issue of Maori class inequality. Maori are significantly over-represented in the oppressed ‘working class’, along with many other ethnic minorities. The neoliberal policies from the 1980s, or ‘Rogernomics’, the ‘Mother of all Budgets’ in the 90s and the current welfare reforms and freemarket economic policies from the National Government, continue to devastate the lives of working class people around the country.
‘‘We only need to look at the issue of child poverty (Child Poverty Group wants to do more research into this), but the Government is refusing to fund it! Or the rising income inequality, or the pressure that charities are facing to provide for families in need – to realise that something’s not right.
‘‘The poor are majorly disadvantaged in this country by a government policy programme that favours the rich and that blames poor people for their ‘bad choices’. So many Maori therefore face significant disadvantages that make it difficult to feel ‘comfortable’ in society, including low socioeconomic status, cultural discrimination and marginalisation, as well as stigmatisation for receiving a benefit. It is tough going out there. I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know that it is time for change.’’
From Roy Reid, national president of Grey Power: ‘‘On Armistice Day we remembered those brave New Zealanders who fought to preserve and protect our freedom. Sadly, in New Zealand today such long-held freedoms are being eroded.
‘‘We have predators targeting the vulnerable, our young and our elderly.
‘‘Home invasions are abhorrent and are making the elderly feel virtual prisoners in their own homes. Such acts of cowardice clearly demonstrate that ethics and values do not exist in certain members of our society.
‘‘Normal people would think that these lowlifes would have a sense of remorse or guilt if they looked at themselves in a mirror. Their own parents and grandparents, along with all elderly, are victims, concerned about their home security and frightened by such brutality.
‘‘The Government must uphold the safety of its country’s residents and we must pay particular heed to those in vulnerable groups. Sentencing should act as a deterrent and should reflect the severity of preying on the weak.
‘‘Grey Power policy is a mandatory three-year prison sentence with no right of parole. Judgments should be quick and efficient so that attackers don’t sit on remand for 12 months with all the special benefits attached to that.
‘‘Grey Power applauds the quick thinking actions of neighbours to safely follow and lead the police to the man who left the premises where one of the attacks occurred. Just as it takes a village to raise a child we too should apply that to caring for our elderly neighbours.’’