The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPPA) explained in ... three minutes video

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If you don't have time for a half hour of reading on the TPPA, get the skinny here in less than three minutes.

Never before has a free-trade deal provoked so much interest - or so much outrage. With just days until the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPPA) is signed off, we look at the pros and cons of the deal, the pushback, and what the future might bring.

"TPPA, no way!" more than 5000 New Zealanders yelled, as they marched through central Auckland last year.

Their rhyme was the rallying cry of the movement against the biggest free-trade deal in history, echoed around New Zealand and the world as the 12-member deal inched ever closer.

Their concerns were mixed: Pharmac would be crippled, multinationals could sue our government over any law, online privacy would be eroded. But worst of all was the fog of secrecy, which made it impossible to know what the deal would really do.

A march down Auckland's Queen Street in August, 2015.
PHIL WALTER/GETTY IMAGES

A march down Auckland's Queen Street in August, 2015.

READ MORE:
* The TPPA explained in 30 seconds
* The TPPA explained in 30 minutes

 

In recent years, the vocal opposition to the TPPA has grown and grown, but the talks have been going on for more than a decade - started way back in 2002 by then-Prime Minister Helen Clark, and the leaders of Singapore and Chile.

Although seven other countries - Brunei, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Peru, Canada and Mexico - joined the negotiations in quick succession, it wasn't until 2008, when the United States joined, that concerns about the deal began to sprout.

The US, and later, Japan, changed the face of the deal: the former sought massive concessions for Big Pharma, including up to 12 years of exclusivity on drug patents before member countries could buy generic medicines; the latter wanted to continue its dairy industry protectionism while growing its own exports.

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Both were objectionable to New Zealand, the world's largest dairy exporter, with the most efficient drug-buying agency in the western world.

The final deal, agreed in October, largely assuaged concerns on both points: although Pharmac will have slightly higher costs, the government promises it will foot the bill, so patients don't have to.

But the government itself admits the outcome for dairy is still far from perfect, having failed to convince the US, Canada, Mexico and Japan to remove dairy tariffs in their entirety, while Japan's also retaining some beef tariffs.

Over 2000 people march through Christchurch in March 2015, in protests against the TPPA.
CHARLES DRACE/FAIRFAX NZ

Over 2000 people march through Christchurch in March 2015, in protests against the TPPA.

In most other areas, tariffs will be gone within 20 years - many, immediately - and non-tariff barriers to trade, including customs delays and regulatory barriers, will also be slashed, making it both cheaper and faster for New Zealand companies - from meat, dairy and wine producers to IT and agribusiness companies, and many in between - to do business.

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The TPPA will be signed by all 12 countries in Auckland on February 4 - and it's hailed as a win for New Zealand's diplomatic leadership, if not for its outcomes, although the government says it expects the deal to add an extra $2.7 billion dollars to GDP each year by 2030.

While Kiwi exporters will have greater access to the TPPA markets than ever before, the result for the average New Zealander is perhaps the most surprising aspect: both proponents of the deal, and those against it, agree most Kiwis won't notice any difference.

Consumer goods prices aren't expected to fall, and the government's guaranteed patients won't have to foot the bill for Pharmac's slightly-higher costs.

Despite that, the figurehead of the opposition, Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey, says the win for freer trade comes at the expense of democracy.

Member governments and their multinational corporations will have new rights to oppose New Zealand's future legislation, and the ability to sue over laws that don't suit their business - which could include efforts to raise taxes on unhealthy foods, or new environmental protections.

Copyright will also extend from 50 to 70 years, costing New Zealand an extra $55 million dollars a year.

Anger about the deal spread to most towns and cities in New Zealand last year, as the talks progressed.
SUPPLIED

Anger about the deal spread to most towns and cities in New Zealand last year, as the talks progressed.

Although the TPPA includes an exception clause to protect the Treaty of Waitangi, a group of high-profile Maori - including former MP Hone Harawira and lawyer Moana Jackson - are spearheading a Waitangi Tribunal claim against the TPPA over a mix of issues, from a lack of consultation to the contentious, and ongoing, issue of water rights.

The case won't be heard until March - too late to stop a who's who of international trade and diplomacy signing on the dotted line next week.

There's just one other sticking point: the agreement won't come into effect until all member countries ratify the deal, and in the United States, politicking means it's expected to take another two years at the very least before the TPPA comes into effect, and makes an iota of impact.

Jane Kelsey, who is a professor of law at the University of Auckland and a prominent critic of the deal, talks to the ...
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Jane Kelsey, who is a professor of law at the University of Auckland and a prominent critic of the deal, talks to the crowds in Auckland.

TPPA AT A GLANCE:
* 12 member countries: New Zealand, the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Peru and Mexico
* Tariffs will be removed from 93 per cent of New Zealand's exports to TPPA countries
* Canada, USA, Japan and Mexico will retain some tariffs on dairy, and Japan will lower, but not eliminate, its beef tariffs
* The government estimates an annual $2.7 billion boost to GDP by 2030
* Experts on both sides say the average New Zealander is unlikely to notice any difference from the deal
* The deal will be signed in Auckland on February 4
* Each country needs to ratify the deal before it takes effect, and the US Congress is expected to take the longest

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 - Stuff

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