The TPPA Local Government Campaign
Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
- Greg Rzesniowiecki
Greg Rzesniowiecki aka gregfullmoon resides in a woolshed in the Motueka Valley. He has assumed varied roles in the past, both here, and across the ditch in his native Melbourne and Australia. He has come to call Aotearoa/New Zealand home.
The TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) negotiations grew out of the earlier P(acific)4 Agreement between New Zealand, Singapore Brunei and Chile. 1 These negotiations were between 11 nations, with Japan joining in 2013. Expectations are that South Korea might join in the future.
Labour’s TPPA Policy 2012
The Auckland round of TPPA negotiations in December 2012 followed closely the November Labour Party Conference which carried two remits critical of the TPPA process. 2 I reproduce these in full as they are central to the subject of this article.
Remit 34: Trade Agreements
THAT Labour adjust its policy in relation to trade agreements, given the on-going negotiation of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, by agreeing that from now on Labour will oppose initiatives and agreements that try to force international harmonisation of policy in areas like intellectual property, public services, pharmaceuticals, investor/State relations and so on, ON THE BASIS THAT such matters are rightly reserved for national decision in recognition of the sovereign right countries have, and should maintain, to organise their own societies and economies as they see fit, AND THAT attempts to globally over-regulate social and economic life through selective trade agreements outside the WTO (World Trade Organisation) and WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) frameworks are usually aimed at imposing the demands of powerful countries on the rest of the world, and bring the whole system of global governance into disrepute.
Remit 35: Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement
THAT in light of the Labour Party’s strong commitment to both the benefits of international trade and New Zealand’s national sovereignty, and recognising the far-reaching implications for domestic policy of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, in which trade is only a small part, Labour will support signing such an Agreement which:
a) Provides substantially increased access for our agriculture exports to the US market;
b) Does not undermine PHARMAC, raise the cost of medical treatments and medicines or threaten public health measures such as tobacco control;
c) Does not give overseas investors or suppliers any greater rights than domestic investors and suppliers, such as Investor/State Dispute Settlement, or reduce our ability to control overseas investment or finance;
d) Does not expand intellectual property rights and enforcement in excess of current law;
e) Does not weaken our public services, require privatisation, hinder reversal of privatisations, or increase the commercialisation of government organisations;
f) Does not reduce our flexibility to support local economic and industry development and encourage good employment and environmental practices;
g) Contains enforceable labour clauses requiring adherence to core International Labour Organisation conventions and preventing reduction of labour rights for trade or investment advantage;
h) Contains enforceable environmental clauses preventing reduction of environmental standards for trade or investment advantage;
i) Has general exceptions to protect human rights, the environment, the Treaty of Waitangi, and New Zealand’s economic and financial stability;
j) Had been negotiated with full public consultation including regular public releases of drafts of the text.
The Labour Party Conference in November was only a couple of weeks before the Auckland round of TPPA negotiations. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Website provides a summary of the negotiations. 3
Auckland Council TPPA Policy
Whilst the 500 TPPA negotiators and their helpers were boosting Auckland's economy during their week long stay, the Auckland Council's Regional Development and Operations Committee met on December 6th. It had placed the TPPA on its agenda. Included in the agenda of that meeting were three Powerpoint presentations 4 from each of Stephen Jacobi of the NZUS Council 5; Auckland University's Professor Jane Kelsey 6; and David Walker 7, Deputy Secretary Trade and Economic Group and then New Zealand's Trade negotiator from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Subsequently Mark Sinclair 8 has been in charge of the negotiations on behalf of MFAT.
Auckland Council had had an Economic Forum on November 13th; it made the following recommendation to the Regional Development and Operations Committee:
That the Economic Forum:
a) Receive the Presentation on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Free Trade Agreements.
b) Thank David Walker, Deputy Secretary Trade and Economic Group, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the presentation.
c) Recommend to the Regional Development and Operations Committee that Council encourages the Government to conclude negotiations in a way which provides net positive benefits for Auckland and New Zealand.
It was recommendation c which was amended with the addition of 12 points that defined the New Zealand national interest. The final decision, carried by nine votes to seven as set out in the minutes (6/12/12) 9, is the policy that Professor Jane Kelsey brought to Nelson when she addressed a public meeting on the TPPA in March 2013. Here it is in full, made generic to enable universal application to NZ councils and with the addition of the phrase “and biosecurity” added into clause x of the policy we proposed to all local government bodies.
TPPA resolution for Local Government consideration
That (name of Council) encourages the Government to conclude negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement in a way that provides net positive benefits for the (name of local region or city) and New Zealand, that is, provided the Agreement achieves the following objectives:
Through sharing the Auckland Council's policy with the Nelson meeting, Professor Kelsey has triggered a train of events that were still reverberating on a cold morning 15 months later on July 22nd, 2014, as 22 TPPA activists stood outside the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) conference in Nelson. 10 They assembled holding anti-TPPA signs, courteously greeted the Opposition Leader David Cunliffe who came and shook our hands. Prim e Minister John Key, along with the Labour leader, was there to respond to the LGNZ election manifesto. 11 The Prime Minister's speech to LGNZ is available at Scoop, 12 as is the LGNZ welcome to the Opposition Leader. 13 We asked LGNZ to place TPPA on its election manifesto to the two Party leaders. 14 But it ignored this opportunity.
Following the March 2013 public meeting Nelson TPPA activists took up the challenge and lobbied the Nelson City Council asking them to adopt the Auckland TPPA policy. Tactics employed were to place submissions into the Council's Annual Planning process; the collection of signatures on a petition and direct lobbying of councillors. This culminated in the Council agreeing to place the TPPA on its Council meeting agenda for July18th (2013). Nelson TPPA Action had 70 people pack the Council Chamber as their representatives, Graeme O'Brien and Mary Ellen O'Connor spoke. They requested that Council adopt the Auckland Council public interest policy whose main points are to protect our interests and sovereign ability to legislate to meet the coming challenges. The Council, after hearing the people's presenters and a considerable debate, carried the Auckland policy by a majority decision, six for one against with two abstentions. 15
This then begged the question of the sister Tasman District Council (TDC). Tasman activists initially presented to Council on September 19th 2013. This arose from an initiative of the Golden Bay Community Board which had recommended the Auckland policy to the full Council. This caught us a little unprepared, we received little notice. However we fronted the public forum component of the Council meeting making our case. Both Graeme O'Brien and I presented to the Council. Our efforts were met by the TDC adopting the position of writing to Tim Groser, Minister of Trade, asking that the TPPA be concluded in the best interests of New Zealand. Whilst this might sound OK it certainly didn't highlight our concerns about Investor/State Dispute Settlement nor the other potential bear traps that might ensnare us in a corporation-favouring TPPA.
Unsatisfied with this, Motueka Renewables took the lead, stepping up the campaign. We collected signatures on a petition calling on TDC to adopt the policy. We built support for this position - I presented to the Motueka Community Board, and again we fronted the Council on December 5th, 2013. Council had a few changes in the meantime with new Councillors elected into the Richmond Ward. At this meeting we had four contributors from the Renewables plus others from the general public. We filled the Council Chamber with many supporters. This meeting saw the Council agree to place the TPPA on the Council's next meeting agenda. This came to be heard on March 6th 2014.
That meeting saw 40 people pack the gallery, and a dozen presenters make various points about the potential dangers of the TPPA to the public interest, the Council's interest, and the nation's ability to function effectively. Surprisingly to us, our Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne moved that the Auckland resolution be adopted as Tasman's policy on the TPPA. This was seconded, and an enthusiastic debate followed. Our resolution looked likely to sail through until some of the Council's “trade and business” focussed Councillors proposed an amendment gutting the requirement for transparency and public consultation in clause 12. This was saved to a degree by Councillor Judene Edgar's quick footwork creating a new clause 13 to put some of the lost ground back into the resulting motion. This amended motion was carried unanimously. 16
Greater Wellington Regional Council addressed the TPPA issue on December 12th 2013 17 This is the resulting motion that was carried by the Council: 18
That the Council expresses concern at the lack of information available on the potential implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement for New Zealand and for local government and, while accepting that treaty negotiations are generally confidential:
1. Notes public reports that the New Zealand negotiators, along with those from other like-minded countries, do not agree with a number of proposed measures including those pertaining to pharmaceuticals, intellectual property protection and environmental measures;
2. Notes that the TPPA, as with all trade agreements, will go through the full Parliamentary process and, once that is complete, any law changes necessary to ensure New Zealand’s compliance with the Treaty must be passed by Parliament; and
3. Urges the Government to instruct its negotiating team to continue to oppose measures that would have unjustifiable negative impact on the ability of local government to make decisions on a range of options, including procurement, that is currently available under New Zealand law.
Palmerston North activists raised TPPA with their Councils; both the Palmerston North City Council (PNCC) and the Horizons Regional Council. Sue Pugmire and Warwick Smith along with other locals were campaigning on the TPPA. Sue Pugmire is a Music Arts lecturer at Massey University and has developed songs about the TPPA. She and Warwick, a photographer with the Manawatu Standard, convened a public meeting on December 17th, 2013, to inform locals on the likely impacts from the TPPA and free trade agreements (FTA) in general 19. The PNCC dealt with TPPA on February 24th when Council carried a resolution moved by Councillor Chris Teo-Sherrell by 15 votes to one 20:
RESOLVED that the Council send a letter, before 28 February 2014, to the Prime Minister asking him to submit any agreement that New Zealand reaches in the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations to the scrutiny of Parliament through the usual democratic process including consideration by a select committee, before a democratic decision is made on signing the agreement, and that the letter to the Prime Minister be copied to all councillors by 7 March 2014.
The letter to contain the following content:
- the TPPA negotiations are being conducted by a small group of people on New Zealand's behalf. It is possible that they may not be acting in what is genuinely NZ's best interests or that they are not able to see all the possible ramifications of proposals being negotiated. Opening up at least the ratification of any agreement to public scrutiny will enable a far fuller consideration to be given to the proposals.
- signing and ratifying any agreement tentatively reached should be subject to the approval of Parliament consistent with our system of democratic, open and participatory democracy.
- the TPPA may have far-reaching repercussions for local government in terms of employment practices, intellectual property and the ability of local governments to make decisions in the best interest of their communities. This should not be permitted to occur without input from local government and those communities themselves.
The next day Sue and Warwick addressed the Horizons Regional Council where a similar outcome was realised, although only by a majority of one, when the Chair used his casting vote to support the recommendation. 21 Horowhenua District Council carried a strong TPPA policy at its April 2nd meeting where it was carried that a letter be sent to the Government outlining the Council's concern about entering a TPPA agreement 22. The contents of the letter were substantially stronger than the content of those from other Manawatu Councils. 23
All Local Government
Following the success at Tasman District Council, our Renewables team along with Graeme O'Brien pondered what to do next. I had the notion in late 2013 that the TPPA campaign ought to be brought to the attention of all councils. I had already commenced a paper outlining the case. We agreed that we ought to write to all New Zealand local government and territorial authorities with our concern. The timing of our correspondence fitted nicely into the 78 councils’ Annual Plan processes. We circulated our paper to every councillor in the 78 councils on March 20th. It actually took three days to work through and address the email to the 1,000+ councillors.
We asked councils to adopt the public interest TPPA policy both in their Annual Plans and in their full council meetings as council policy on TPPA, and to pass this to central Government as a recommendation. This larger TPPA policy is an advance on the position carried by Greater Wellington Regional, Palmerston North, Horizons Regional Councils. The policy that Horowhenua District Council carried is a strong position; however we were now seeking consistency, encouraging councils to adopt the full 12 point public interest policy. The material we developed for this campaign is available at the It's Our Future 24 Website. We developed a local government lobby kit 25, which contains the background paper we provided all councils, along with a draft petition and other documents which assist activists in their lobby efforts with their local councils.
TPPA rallies were conducted the length of the nation on Saturday March 29th. The timing of this gave the TPPA local government campaign a huge lift as we had locals raising the issue of lobbying their councils with the TPPA public interest policy. That was my contribution to the Nelson rally. Marches and rallies occurred at 15 locations in New Zealand's major centres. 26
Murray Horton Speaking Tour
It was at Takaka in mid April that I first met Murray Horton and Jeremy Agar on the CAFCA/ABC national speaking tour. They had started it in Dunedin in March. The top of the South venues were Takaka, Nelson for the Roger Awards and Blenheim. I travelled to Takaka to get the whole lecture on April 14th, as the full lecture was to be shortened the following night at the Roger Award event in Nelson. 27 I was a part of that, representing Rio Tinto. Little did I know that I and Rio Tinto turned out to be the winner of the worst transnational corporation in New Zealand in 2013. I dressed as the Queen, to the bemusement of the 100+ crowd, as she is the largest private shareholder of this huge corporation. The worse thing for me was the ill-fitting shoes. The stand out acting performance of that night was from a Wakefield headmaster who represented Novopay; he was a star.
It was arising from understanding the content of Murray's lecture and the tie into TPPA, that I conceived the idea of following his speaking tour and addressing our initiative to lobby local government to adopt the adapted “Auckland TPPA policy” to the audience at each venue in the North Island section of the tour. With that idea I became Murray's benevolent stalker, speaking to each audience at the end of Murray's talk, commencing with Waiheke Island on May 4th and concluding with the Christchurch venues in late June and early July.
Christchurch activist Gen de Spa videoed the Lyttelton lecture posting the video of my TPPA talk to Youtube.28 The content of my contribution was to outline the history of the public interest TPPA policy and to encourage locals to take the lead lobbying this position to their own councils. To undertake this exercise I have been on the road living out of my Liteace van (Tinkerbell – she makes a “tink tink” noise when the driver gets her just over 100kph). I've not worked since February and after exhausting my own surplus of cash now rely on the generosity of sustainers and sponsors to continue the project. A bank account is provided at the conclusion of this article for any who might care to contribute, cheers for that.
Wanganui District Council
Wanganui District Council provides our most recent gain at its Audit Risk and Finance Committee meeting on July15th to consider our TPPA policy. Wanganui locals have been staunch in their advocacy for the public interest TPPA policy. Cheers to Denise and Chris, they are stars. They and their mates collected signatures on the TPPA petition addressed to their Council, which included an ongoing presence at their weekend market and canvassing the street and local businesses to host the petition. At last count they had collected in excess of 650 signatures!
The TPPA issue was placed on the Council agenda for June 19th. This day has become infamous in Wanganui Council history. Four Councillors who opposed the TPPA being made a Council issue vacated the Council Chamber, denying the Council a quorum to formally consider the matter. This caused consternation amongst the 40+ locals that attended and those who had prepared their presentations to the Council. It also gained significant press in the Wanganui Chronicle.29 Mayor Annette Main was distraught at this seeming breach of Council meeting procedure and protocol by the walkout Councillors. She quickly got the TPPA back on the agenda, placing it before the Audit Risk and Finance Committee on July15th.
Local activists put their heads and wallets together and purchased a plane ticket to get me to the Council meeting to speak. This was no small amount of money. I prepared two papers: one a backgrounder that I forwarded in advance and the other a speech to be delivered in the public forum of the meeting. That day saw 30+ locals in the Chamber and a near full complement of Councillors. Three of the walkout Councillors were present. Following my presentation and answering many questions the Council considered the TPPA. There was a foreshadowed motion that sought to sideline our policy but that was defeated. Our TPPA policy was then put and carried five votes to three.30
This decision then went forward as a recommendation to a full Council meeting on July 28th. But, unfortunately, the walkout Councillors were able to get a watered down resolution passed at that meeting, omitting all mention of the 12 point TPPA public interest policy. The next stop on the TPPA road tour was Invercargill City Council's Youth Council on August 6th. It convened a public meeting to consider our proposal. We stopped in Dunedin on the way, seeking to get our TPPA policy formally onto the Dunedin City Council agenda.
On August 18th DCC adopted the TPPA resolution by a 7-6 vote, with an amendment to the 12th clause. And on August 14th the Christchurch City Council unanimously adopted the 12 point public interest resolution on the TPPA, along with a rider to ask Local Government NZ to also adopt it. Christchurch used to lead the country with its opposition to things like the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI, the forerunner of the TPPA, which was defeated in the 1990s) when it wore the title “The People’s Republic of Christchurch” with pride. But things had slipped in recent years (see Watchdog 121, August 2009, “Obsolete! Christchurch City Council Quietly Scraps Its Progressive Foreign Investment Policy”, by Murray Horton, http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/21/03.htm). So it’s very encouraging that the CCC is rediscovering some self-respect. Ed.
Eighteen months ago we didn't know what the TPPA was! Now we are actively engaged in ensuring that any deal agreed to by the Government is unequivocally in the Kiwi public interest. We have become public advocates on behalf of a future that provides for our governments at central and local levels to take decisions that protect the public interest. We are to the fore of the campaign that wishes to make the public interest the prime motivator when New Zealand considers its national interest.
There are many I wish to thank who have made my journey through our land, towns and cities, and amongst our friendly people, a great experience. The project provides me with much optimism that we are awakening to the challenges and opportunities to place our nation and state on a path to innovation, resilience and public interest outcomes. This story for me commenced with a rally in Nelson in 2012 led by a staunch fellow Graeme O'Brien who seized the opportunity to bring the Auckland TPPA policy to the Top of the South councils. It continues with a great effort by hundreds of people throughout our land engaging their councils to create an outcome that places people before profits.
TPPA Roadie Appeal
Donations to this initiative to lobby local government with the TPPA policy can be made to the NBS, account number 031354 0295461 016, reference TPPA Roadie.