Is the Trans Pacific Partnership a free trade mirage?

If the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal was a new car you probably wouldn’t buy it, or at least not from this dealership. There will be no chance of a test drive with this baby. The pre-conditions for the TPP trade pact mean that New Zealanders will not be informed what is in the agreement before it comes into force, even though some ingredients could well render central government liable to being sued for compensation (in so-called investor/state disputes) if and when an offshore arbitration panel decides that the TPP conditions have been breached.

If the investor-state mechanisms are passed in anything like their current form, the TPP will enable foreign investors to sue us before overseas tribunals if this government ever tried – or any future New Zealand government ever tried – to pass laws to protect health, work safety or the environment, but which happened to cause foreign investors to lose money. This happened to Brazil in the recent past where the trading interests of foreign tyre makers was deemed by an arbitration panel to over-ride the interests of ordinary Brazilians at risk of disease from the mosquitos hatching within discarded tyres. It may happen in future to Australia, with respect to the tobacco packaging regulations it recently passed to protect public health.