Thursday 4 November 2010

Hillary Clinton comes bearing poisoned chalice for NZ

By Murray Horton


As if 2,000 earthquakes haven’t been enough punishment for Christchurch, now we’re going to have Hillary Clinton visiting us (and Wellington) this week.

A major focus for her NZ visit  will be the negotiations which are well underway for the US and a number of other countries to join an expanded Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (currently comprising NZ, Chile, Brunei, and Singapore, and known as the P4 Agreement), with 2011 as the target to seal the deal. This will be used as the backdoor means to secure a US/NZ Free Trade Agreement.

That would be catastrophic for any remaining economic sovereignty that New Zealand has. CAFCA says this not because we are “anti-American”. All such FTAs – such as with the existing P4 partners, or the more recent ones with Malaysia, the Gulf States and Hong Kong – pose the same threat to a greater or lesser degree. And our opposition to them is not because of “xenophobia” but for well founded grounds that they simply enmesh NZ more and more tightly in a cobweb of transnational corporate control.

So it’s a recipe for disaster to enter into an FTA with the biggest economy in the world, headed by a Government that aggressively pushes the interests of American Big Business (there is a seamless flow between the US Government and US Big Business, as is evidenced by the trillion dollar bailout of the mega-greedy financial sector, a textbook example of socialism for the rich).

A full blown US FTA will:

• Remove any remaining “restrictions” on foreign investment, as the US regards NZ's (purely token) oversight regime as “discriminating” against US transnational corporations. The extraordinary spectacle of the Government grovelling to Warner Brothers last week – a textbook example of corporate welfare and feudal forelock tugging – shows what the future holds in relation to the bullyboy brinkmanship of US Big Business when dealing with NZ.

• push up the price of medicines by potentially hundreds of millions of dollars a year by attacking Pharmac;

• make access to digital recordings more expensive, and copying more restricted;

• attack our GE controls and food labelling,

• weaken our controls on food imports where they might carry diseases.

It is always presented as a means of getting NZ agricultural products into the US market. Ask Australian sugar cane growers how successful they were in getting their product into the US under the US/Australia FTA. The Americans have a simple policy when it comes to “free trade” – do as they say, not as they do. In other words, they want the world’s markets opened up to their products, while keeping their own heavily subsidised agribusiness sector fully or heavily protected from outside competitors.

Both National and Labour myopically see a US FTA as being the Holy Grail of their adherence to the cargo cult of “free trade”. It’s actually a poisoned chalice and it will be New Zealand which will be poisoned by it.

The other side of the coin is that Clinton will be asking NZ to take a bigger role in the American war in Afghanistan. Older New Zealanders will remember the infamous “guns for butter” phrase of Sir Keith Holyoake, Prime Minister during our involvement in the Vietnam War. It means sending our soldiers to fight in US wars in order to, theoretically, gain trade access. Nothing much seems to have changed in the ensuing 40 years (except now it is “guns for milk”, as the Government’s trade policy is driven by a single minded focus on serving Fonterra’s interests). Already we have troops there and the Pentagon went to great lengths recently to buy up and destroy the American book “Operation Dark Heart” which, among things, revealed the full extent of the hands on role being played in Afghanistan by NZ military and intelligence personnel. And, of course, the Waihopai spybase, an American intelligence facility in all but name, is NZ’s single most important contribution to the US warfighting machine 24/7/365.

People who kid themselves that “we” stand to gain from a Free Trade Agreement with the US would be wise to reflect on the rueful words of Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s Ambassador to the US in the runup to the 2003 US/UK invasion of Iraq. Speaking to the current public Inquiry into Britain’s part in that invasion and war: “Meyer expressed frustration that Britain was unable to gain much diplomatic leverage from its position as the US’s chief ally. Britain failed to persuade the US to liberalise trans-Atlantic air travel and, almost on the day when British commandoes joined the fighting in Afghanistan, the US imposed tariffs on imports of specialised British steel” (Press, 28/11/09). If this is the way that the US treats its “chief ally” (or poodle, in the case of Tony Blair) when it comes to protecting its own trade and economic interests, how do you think little old NZ will get on?

For full details see the New Zealand Not For Sale Website . There you will find a wealth of information about just why this proposed Free Trade Agreement is such a bad thing. We particularly recommend that you read Bill Rosenberg’s excellent article “Who Wins If We Get A Free Trade Deal With The US?”

Murray Horton


Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa
Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand

1 comment:

Kate Kennedy said...

For more detail on this critical issue, read 'No Ordinary Deal: Unmasking the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement' edited by Jane Kelsey, publ Bridget Williams Books, Oct 2010. It's scary but really takes the blinkers off the eyes.