Bruce Bisset: Higher purposes than money

By Bruce Bisset

John Key arriving in Bali,Indonesia, for the APEC meeting.
John Key arriving in Bali,Indonesia, for the APEC meeting.

There's a certain twisted comfort in knowing our "best before" date as a nation - sometime around Christmas - because at that point we democrats can stop fighting the hard yards and simply kiss our best interests goodbye.

For as much as John Key might joke, he wouldn't "bet the ranch" on the TPPA being signed by year's end, when it is signed that's exactly what we'll lose: the whole ranch, with no chance of getting it back.

Let's be clear: the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is not about "free trade", it's about corporations subverting national sovereignty.

This neoliberal final solution will disembowel government by and for the people and replace it with "trade tribunals" whose only care is to decide the squabbles as to who gets the money.

So it's hardly surprising former exchange trader Key was bolstered into the chairman's seat in this week's talks, finding ways to sell out New Zealand for cold cash is his stock in trade. And with the TPPA, he's hit the jackpot.

See, the TPPA is a series of (secret) agreements binding a hodge-podge of Pacific-Rim countries to its provisions forever and a day, with no parliamentary let alone popular examination or oversight and no opportunity to renege once committed.

Moreover any complaints, of any nature and from any source, will be arbitrated by secretive corporate-appointed commissions sitting entirely outside of any formal government process - yet binding governments to their decisions.

Those tribunals will use the laws of one country against another in their deliberations, regardless of whether it's good law, bad law or appallingly corrupt law.

That's the "free" bit of the whole shemozzle - you can't restrict the "rights" of a signatory acting in accordance with their laws.

It's like buying a piece of art without seeing it, receiving nothing but a framed receipt, and then being sued for having the audacity to expect something worthwhile in the first place.

Given the three largest economies in the world - China, the US and Japan - are among the current nine nations negotiating this "deal", how well do you think New Zealand is going to fare under such a regime?

Think about Chinese labour laws, US pharmacy, genetic engineering and security laws, Mexican land laws, Peruvian mining laws, Japanese fishing laws, Vietnamese food laws, Australian indigenous rights laws.

Think about those laws being held to apply here.

No, I'm not kidding.

Oh, sure, maybe it won't be so bad, after all, none of us know what the text contains, except for excerpts of two (of 26) draft chapters leaked last year. And as draconian and alarming as those excerpts were, maybe they've improved the wording since to make for fairer terms.

Maybe pigs do fly.

Nor is it any comfort whatsoever for Key to blithely quip that "we're aligned with their [US] views, and that's good".

So good Key had to replace Barack Obama as chairman in Brunei because Obama had to stay home to try to get his Government out of the suspended animation it has been forced into thanks to the naked self-interest of a bunch of fruitcake corporate lackeys.

That's a real democracy in action. Yeah, right.

And that, citizens, is what we're about to lose.

The right to self-determination. To be replaced by corporatised plutocracy dressed up as "merely" a new trade pact.

Mind you, given the pitiful turnout at these local elections, it's becoming clear a majority think democracy is old hat anyway, so maybe the new world order will be welcomed.

And maybe I'm just a dinosaur in thinking there are higher purposes than money.

That's the right of it.

Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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