“Holy Grail” Is A Poisoned Chalice:

US Free Trade Deal Recipe For Disaster

- by Murray Horton

Negotiations between officials started in March 2010, in Australia, for the US, Australia, Peru and Vietnam to join an expanded Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP, currently comprising NZ, Chile, Brunei, and Singapore, known as the P4 Agreement), with November 2011, when the US hosts Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), as the target to seal the deal. This will be used as the backdoor means to secure a US/NZ Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Already the Americans have said that they see this as more than a mere free trade deal but as a vehicle for broader Asia/Pacific economic integration, which has enormous political implications. Alarm bells should be loudly ringing.

A free trade deal with the US would be catastrophic for any remaining economic sovereignty that New Zealand has. CAFCA says this not because we are “anti-American”. All such FTAs – such as with the existing P4 partners, or the more recent ones with Malaysia, the Gulf States and Hong Kong - pose the same threat to a greater or lesser degree. And our opposition to them is not because of “xenophobia” but for well founded grounds that they simply enmesh NZ more and more tightly in a cobweb of transnational corporate control.

So it’s a recipe for disaster to enter into an FTA with the biggest economy in the world, headed by a Government that aggressively pushes the interests of American Big Business (there is a seamless flow between the US government and US Big Business, as is evidenced by the trillion dollar bailout of the mega-greedy financial sector, a textbook example of socialism for the rich). And why would NZ want to jump onto a sinking ship? The US has big, big problems at the moment, with huge debt, record numbers of people losing their jobs and/or homes, company crashes, and a preoccupation with having to do something to fix its ramshackle social infrastructure (President Obama had to postpone his Australian trip, which was to coincide with the start of these negotiations, to spend more time dealing with his campaign to pass the law that will begin to reform the laughing stock that is the US health system). World trade dropped 12% in 2009, the biggest plunge since WW2, and globalisation is no longer flavour of the month – except with blinkered ideologues like Mike Moore, whom the Government has appointed as Ambassador to the US with an FTA as his self-proclaimed top priority. We’d be better off getting as far away as possible from this particular sinking ship.

A Full Blown US FTA Will:

  • Remove any remaining “restrictions” on foreign investment, as the US regards NZ’s (purely token) oversight regime as “discriminating” against US transnational corporations, even though the Government has promised to further “liberalise” the Overseas Investment Act, a law which is in danger of being liberalised to death.
  • push up the price of medicines by potentially hundreds of millions of dollars a year by attacking Pharmac;
  • make access to digital recordings more expensive, and copying more restricted;
  • attack our GE controls and food labelling,
  • weaken our controls on food imports where they might carry diseases.

It is always presented as a means of getting NZ agricultural products into the US market. Ask Australian sugar cane growers how successful they were in getting their product into the US under the US/Australia FTA (Australia is one of the countries wishing to join the TPP, so that what they managed to protect from their FTA with the US is now also up for grabs). The Americans have a simple policy when it comes to “free trade” – do as they say, not as they do. In other words, they want the world’s markets opened up to their products, while keeping their own heavily subsidised agribusiness sector fully or heavily protected from outside competitors.

Guns For Milk

Both National and Labour myopically see a US FTA as being the Holy Grail of their adherence to the cargo cult of “free trade”. It’s actually a poisoned chalice and it will be New Zealand which will be poisoned by it. This is also presented as NZ’s “reward” for being a loyal little satellite of the US, and taking a bigger role in the American war in Afghanistan. Older New Zealanders will remember the infamous “guns for butter” phrase of Sir Keith Holyoake, Prime Minister during our involvement in the Vietnam War. It means sending our soldiers to fight in US wars in order to, theoretically, gain trade access. Nothing much seems to have changed in the ensuing 40 years (except now it is “guns for milk”, as the Government’s trade policy is driven by a single minded focus on serving Fonterra’s interests). It is worth noting that the Waihopai spybase is NZ’s biggest contribution to each and any American war, much more so than any deployment of a few Special Air Service troops to help prop up a horrendously corrupt Government of warlords and drug barons in Afghanistan.

People who kid themselves that “we” stand to gain from a Free Trade Agreement with the US would be wise to reflect on the rueful words of Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s Ambassador to the US in the run up to the 2003 US/UK invasion of Iraq. Speaking to the current public Inquiry into Britain’s part in that invasion and war: “Meyer expressed frustration that Britain was unable to gain much diplomatic leverage from its position as the US’ chief ally. Britain failed to persuade the US to liberalise trans-Atlantic air travel and, almost on the day when British commandoes joined the fighting in Afghanistan, the US imposed tariffs on imports of specialised British steel” ( Press, 28/11/09). If this is the way that the US treats its “chief ally” when it comes to protecting its own trade and economic interests, how do you think little old NZ will get on?

For full details see the New Zealand Not For Sale Website www.nznotforsale.org There you will find a wealth of information about just why this proposed Free Trade Agreement is such a bad thing. We particularly recommend that you read Bill Rosenberg’s excellent article “Who Wins If We Get A Free Trade Deal With The US?

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Foreign Control Watchdog, P O Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. May 2010.

Email cafca@chch.planet.org.nz

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