The Government is currently taking public submissions on what its proposed trade agenda – Trade for All – should look like. I’ve submitted calling for 21st century trade policy that moves New Zealand into a new era of international trade, and focuses on prioritising the things that really matter to New Zealanders.
If you’re interested, you can make a submission yourself, closing Sunday 14 October.
Here's my submission as Green Party Trade Spokesperson:
The Green Party supports fair trade for New Zealand – trade which protects our environment, safeguards human rights, our workers’ rights, and upholds the principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Trade agreements in 2018 are no longer just about the exchange of goods and services, and the imposition or reduction of tariffs – ‘trade deal’ is a misnomer in today’s world. These agreements are an important aspect of international law, and place obligations and restrictions on how governments regulate and make policy in areas including human rights, labour rights, indigenous issues, public health, environmental protection, climate change, intellectual property, market regulation, and so many more.
Fair international trade is a good thing: it creates interdependence among states, which can build relationships, encourage the proliferation of international norms and rules-based order, and contribute to a more secure, connected and compassionate world. But there’s a darker side to trade, too, when it isn’t fair and it doesn’t bring benefits to all. Those who have held power in the global political economy of the past 20 years are big multi-national corporate investors, and they’ve moulded the international system to serve their interests – at the expense, more often than not, of ordinary people and the planet.
It’s time trade policy moved forward, and I’m hopeful that the process of reconsidering New Zealand’s approach to international trade will come from the proposed Trade for All agenda. While there are specific areas I want Trade for All to address, which I’ve been clear on since I became a Green MP – for example, we should no longer sign trade agreements containing ISDS, and the public should be accorded greater involvement in the process of negotiating and signing treaties – I think Trade for All is bigger than just those things, given the effect trade has on all our lives.
The Green Party Charter is built on four principles: ecological wisdom, social responsibility, appropriate decision-making and non-violence. It’s these principles that I go back to when I think about what our trade policy should prioritise for generations to come. I think that our new trade agenda should look to protect and, where it can, enhance:
- Our public health system, which provides care to all New Zealanders who need it, when they need it, and our medicine-buying agent PHARMAC, which negotiates the best prices for treatments for all New Zealanders and stops the profit-hungry influence of Big Pharma reaching Aotearoa.
- Our pristine, beautiful environment, which provides refuge to our priceless native wildlife, recreation opportunities for all New Zealanders, and income to thousands of tourism businesses around the country who rely on its protection for their livelihoods. We can’t let provisions into trade agreements which threaten our greatest and most precious natural resource.
- Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and the Crown commitment to honour the principles of the Treaty and work in true partnership with Māori to produce better outcomes for all New Zealanders. International obligations must never override that commitment.
- Our democracy – trade should never undermine the ability of New Zealanders to determine the direction of their country through integral democratic processes with strong checks and balances on power
- Our robust public institutions, which make sure Kiwis get a fair go – be it through regulating market sectors to make sure you’re not being ripped off when you buy your milk or pay your internet bill, or through keeping an eye out for foreign interference in our elections. These institutions can’t be watered down in the name of attracting investment.
- The equality in our society – while we have a long way to go before we get it right, New Zealand is a lot better off than many other countries, and we should protect the right of the government to ensure all New Zealanders have equality of access to education, healthcare, job opportunities and culture by preserving controls in these sectors.
- The freedom to make a life in Aotearoa – swimming in clean rivers, buying a house and starting a family, and enjoying clean, modern forms of power generation and transport. Government shouldn’t be restricted by the threat of big business when it regulates for the good of all Kiwis.
In 2017, New Zealand voted for a government that promised a truly progressive approach, including on trade. To make good on that promise, we have to lay the building blocks for a model of international trade that reinforces the things which really matter: the wellbeing of our people and environment, and the freedoms we enjoy as a society built on equality, compassion, and justice.
The coalition parties’ recent decision to sign the CPTPP stood contrary to that promise – and I want to make sure that doesn't happen again. No matter what it looks like, Trade for All must mean trade that protects what makes New Zealand the best place in the world. It’s time to move away from the archaic era of chasing unsustainable growth and focus our trade agenda on the things that really matter to Aotearoa.
You can make a submission on Trade for All here – closing Sunday, 14 October.