Pos­i­tive pitch from TPP road­show

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - RICHARD MAYS

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.

PHOTO: MUR­RAY WIL­SON/ FAIR­FAX NZ

There seemed to be more pick­eters out­side than par­tic­i­pants in­side at Fri­day’s Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs and Trade TPP road­show at the Copthorne.

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