TWO recent events have revived my concerns over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP).

United States President Barack Obama is pushing for congressional ratification during the so-called lame-duck session of Congress -- that's after the election but before installation of the new Congress. A vote then carries with it no or lesser accountability to constituents.

The second stimulus was a visit I paid to Project Gutenberg, the wonderful online repository of books now available in the public domain as their creators have died more than 50 years ago, hence copyrights have expired.

The website ( urges visitors to help stop the TPP by calling their congressional representatives (which I promptly did), and explains their opposition here:


Briefly, the TPP offers strong protections for corporate rights to intellectual property, even criminal enforcement, and weak protection for consumer rights. TPP extends copyright protection for 70 years for works owned by corporations (like Mickey Mouse), less for individual creators.

TPP enforcement provisions raise significant concerns about citizens' freedom of expression, natural justice, innovation, the future of the internet's global infrastructure, and the right of sovereign nations to develop policies and laws that best meet their domestic priorities.

It's not even superficially fair. New Zealand will be required to rewrite its innovative 2008 copyright law, while Canada and Chile have negotiated exceptions to keep their present consumer protective laws in place.

What's any of that to do with us and our coming election? Candidates for Whanganui council and the mayoralty are offering to deal with the issue of jobs, a pressing recurrent theme, almost all promising to bring more jobs. But only a few are actually telling us just how they plan to do that.

One area of job growth could be in innovative cyber-technology as we have infrastructure in place -- the intellectual capital, ultra-fast broadband and inexpensive housing/worksites -- to make our city a little Silicon Valley. If we are wise enough, organised enough, and committed enough, through the new mayor and council, to make it happen.

That's the carrot for opposing the TPP. The stick is the massive rise in medication costs if/when that part of the agreement hits, which extends patents, and slows down generics which are the backbone of our present barely affordable medication system. This will affect all our current and future pensioners.

All politics are local. The TPP received scant notice during the electoral forums despite the large citizen participation in protest marches. It is not the policy of this newspaper -- or this column -- to endorse particular candidates. That said, it's altogether within limits to examine candidates' positions and actions on the issues.

And it's not simply agreement on the substantive issues we need. For example, Kate Joblin -- who chaired the Whanganui District Health Board -- and I have had significant policy differences there, but her honesty in those differences and her strong dedication to the best health outcomes for our citizens was never in doubt.


Several candidates are on record in support of the TPP or opposed to the district council's consideration of it as an issue upon which to take a stand.

David Bennett, for example, has written in support of TPP as contributing to free trade and hence jobs for the city. He has personally contributed to the city's growth, already. A cost-benefit analysis to his open-minded, business-oriented approach may well bring the realisation that the TPP represents corporate protectionism, incurring costs we cannot bear, jobs we will not have. What concerns me more are the tactics of Helen Craig, Rob Vinsen, Philippa-Baker Hogan and Ray Stevens who forestalled a petition to the council by anti-TPP protesters through a walkout, thus eliminating a necessary quorum (Chronicle; June 14, 2014).

The use of parliamentary tactics to prevent the debate and hence to hinder democratic process is as important -- no, more important -- than disagreement on policy. The latter can be resolved by patient appeal to reason and fact. When someone's unwilling to listen and to debate important issues, it feeds into the concerns raised about past decision-making and the future ones to come.

Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who immigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.