Fran O’Sullivan kicks Little in the slats over the TPPA

Fran O’Sullivan delivers a good kicking to Andrew Little and to Labour for their stance over the TPPA.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is too important to New Zealand’s economic future for Andrew Little to turn it into a partisan political football.

Little has attempted to somersault on the proverbial pin by giving former Labour leader and trade minister Phil Goff a dispensation to take his own position on the agreement – ostensibly because of “his involvement in negotiating its predecessor the P4 agreement” . Yet at the same time, stamping on former leader David Shearer for vocalising support for TPP because he wants his MPs to fall into line with the nebulous notion of caucus “collective responsibility”.

It is difficult to understand why Little prefers the judgment of NGO activists over that of a former NZ Trade Minister who not only negotiated the ground-breaking bilateral China free trade deal but also finalised the Asean deal with New Zealand and Australia.

Frankly there is nothing responsible in Little’s positioning.

Labour MPs I spoke to yesterday are aghast at developments around this. It has all the hallmarks of a Matt McCarten-style standover. MPs being threatened should use the words McCarten himself likes to use on bullies…”Or you’ll do what?”

Successive New Zealand governments – and their negotiators – have worked hard indeed to bring global economic giants like the United States and Japan and frankly protectionist nations like Canada into an Asia-Pacific agreement.

This is no mean feat.

New Zealand vision and leadership has been to the fore in securing TPP.

The reality is it had earlier proved impossible for New Zealand to forge separate bilateral agreements with these three countries as NZ was simply too small, too insignificant and not of sufficient strategic importance for these much bigger nations to bother.

Yet an Asia-Pacific deal – with all its imperfections – is about to be signed.

Little should also be celebrating Labour’s role in originating the TPP.

He’d rather everyone, including Helen Clark, would just keep quiet on that, thank you very much. Any deal that lifts GDP, removes trade barriers and opens new markets for a trading nation of less than 5 million people, is a good thing.

It is important for New Zealand to be patched into these regional agreements rather than suffer trade disadvantage by being on the outside.

Little maintains his caucus cannot support the deal in its current form due to its “compromise of New Zealand’s sovereignty.”

Goff has been circumspect “I’m respectful of Labour’s position on it … I have on record taken a somewhat different position.”

But – in a short lesson to his leader – did say all international deals involve some giving up of sovereignty.

Other Labour MPs who do support ratifying TPP are silenced.

In Shearer’s case, he is an internationalist.

He is a man who makes up his own mind after taking careful soundings. He’s fully aware of the role international trade plays in uniting the global community and the imperative towards economic integration in the Asia Pacific.

Yet he is now being reprimanded.

Labour MPs like Clayton Cosgrove and Stuart Nash will also be seething at their leader’s stance. Sure, they will cover it up in public – no-one wants to be dumped down the greasy pole of Labour’s political rankings by taking issue with their leader publicly.

Labour MPs are much so that many of them are talking to me. Little has over-reached, and there is zero political gain for them. They have yet again fallen into believing that what people on Twitter or Facebook say is real New Zealand.

New Zealand has a proud record of bipartisanship when it comes to pursuing our advantage on the world stage: not just the many preferential trade agreements which successive National and Labour Governments have negotiated; but also our role in deepening global trade by taking a pro-active role in promoting major giants like China and Russia to successfully join the World Trade Organisation; promoting leaders like Helen Clark, Don McKinnon and Mike Moore to achieve high international office, and, securing NZ’s role on the Security Council.

Against all the predictions of NZ’s army of Chicken Littles, the deal will be signed in Auckland next week.

And the left will lose again, and lose even more when the next polls come out.


– NZ Herald