Positive pitch from TPP roadshow
Even TPP opponents had to admit the presentation was pretty slick.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) TPP roadshow rolled into Palmerston North on Friday offering an overview of the controversial agreement, before fronting up to answer questions from local business interests, and address concerns over sovereignty, regulatory and procedural issues.
After outlining the main implications of the agreement for industry and exporters, MFAT chief negotiator David Walker patiently answered questions from the floor, dealing with those who had taken positions for and against the agreement with a disarming even-handedness.
The range of questions involved tax implications, the perceived anti-democratic nature of the agreement, parliamentary processes around the agreement, benefits for smaller exporting businesses, investor state dispute settlements (ISDS), the ratification process, the Treaty of Waitangi, and rules of origin for imports.
TPP opponent Sue Pugmire was concerned that there was a good chance that under the ISDS provisions, New Zealand would eventually be sued for amounts that would dwarf the $2.7billion the agreement was predicted to realise for the country by 2031.
David replied that ‘‘the likelihood of New Zealand being successfully sued was slim’’, and that ISDS have been part of the country’s trade agreements for over 25 years. He clarified that the $2.7billion was a step-change amount, and the agreement would be worth a further similar amount the following year, with ongoing benefits over subsequent years.
Businessman and exporter John Heng drew applause for his comment that the agreement was based on a majority government setting the rules, first under Helen Clark, and now with John Key.
Outside the Copthorne venue on Fitzherbert Ave, a small police contingent kept an eye on a colourful and costumed coterie of anti-TPP picketers who at the outset, possibly outnumbered those inside.
The short notice about regis- tering for the event may have contributed to the surprisingly small gathering. Just shy of 50 availed themselves of the opportunity to have matters clarified and to help themselves to the copious literature and its extensive topic overviews.
Educational consultant Ipe Matthews noted that the majority of people in the room had grey hair, and wanted to know where the young students from Massey School of Business and IPU were.
‘‘This is all about shaping the future – their future,’’ Ipe says.
Ellen Nelson, who works for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, came along to understand it on behalf of her clients, calling it a ‘‘very clear presentation’’.
NZP chief executive Andy Lewis, described how free trade agreements had boosted business and employment at the Linton plant by removing tariffs. Although he doesn’t expect the full benefits of the TPPA for exporters to be seen right away, Andy expects the company to be employing a further 50 people over the next five years.
‘‘FTA’s aren’t always an immediate pot of gold. There’s often a lot of development and adjustment time before you can take full advantage.’’
Sue says a counter-TPPA roadshow presenting opposing independent, peer-reviewed, expert assessments of the agreement will be visiting Palmerston North in the near future.
There seemed to be more picketers outside than participants inside at Friday’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade TPP roadshow at the Copthorne.