Why did we not debate the TTP during the election? – It could change our lives forever.

With the Government starting to admit its foreign spy agency was gearing up for mass surveillance in the wake of an illegal spying scandal, New Zealander’s might want to take a closer look – should kiwi’s allow American commercial interest to dictate New Zeland national ICT policy, and what impact this might have businesses and and every day kiwi’s.

This is important because ICT can underpin future growth and innovation for New Zealand businesses. Technological advancement in ICT goods and services is continuing at a rapid pace, driving prices down and leading to a wide range of new applications like Xero and Vend. ICT can help firms expand their product range, customise their services, or respond better to demand, in short, to innovate.

So why would the New Zealand government let a foreign company dictate which websites our citizens can access or what product we buy?

The New Zealand government is one of the parties invloved in the TransPacificPartnership Agreement (TPPA or TPP for short). The TPP is no simple “free trade agreement.” It goes further than tariffs and quotas.

It allows private foreign corporation to sue countries over regulations that those corporations don’t like. It allows drug companies to expand the monopoly powers of drug patents; it would also allow corporations decide on what websites should be allowed on the Internet.

According to frontup.co.nz “Some of the worst examples of New Zealanders being asked to pay more than the rest of the world for things can be found in the iTunes store.

Taylor Swift’s latest hit was the top list track on the US iTunes store in September. In America you can download the song for US$1.29. The same song costs NZ$2.39 in New Zealand. The entire album, costs US$12.99 compared with NZ$23.99. Allowing for GST and the exchange rate that means we have to pay 35 percent more to buy the same music.

How would you like your healthcare cost to rise? No! Well if the TTP passes it’s likely they will. In New Zealand during the 1980s medicines prices were increasing at a faster rate than other healthcare spending, and were one of the fastest growing items of Government expenditure. In 1993 the Pharmaceutical Management Agency (PHARMAC) was created to actively manage Government spending on medicines.

According to PHARMAC’s website it uses a process for off-patent medicines (“generics”) to promote competition. Tendering for generic medicine is now used extensively, involves nearly half of all subsidised medicines (by volume) yet represents around 20 percent of New Zealand’s total drug cost. The annual tender generates around $40 -$50 million in savings each year. That means the average bill for NZ’s will increase by $50 a year for an average family, about the cost of one Doctor’s visit. Do you consider this an issue? In 2012 petrol excise duty increased by 2 cents per litre, or 4.1 percent an average cost of around $30 a year. How did you feel about this. Now imagine prices increases impacting nearly every area of your life. No more shopping at The Warehouse, parallel imports will be a thing of the past.

All of the mechanisms we have in our society are designed to increase competition, to get rid of monopolies, to help reduce the amount we pay for medicines, and every day household goods, and improve our lives. The savings Pharmac generates that can be used to subsidise more products – increasing New Zealanders’ access to medicines. Would you prefer to line a foreign nation’s pockets or have Pharmac invest in the latest breast cancer treatment Herceptin that is now available to 350 women a year at a cost $6 million.

The TTP will sacrifice sovereignty, national health and consumer choice on the Internet freedom all in the name of keeping the private corporations balance sheets fat and healthy. This is why the TTP is so dangerous; it makes it near impossible for NZ to fight back against giant corporations. No more ‘No nukes,’ we would have to fight to create our own laws.

The TTP It puts the rights of profit driven businesses in America over basic democratic rights of New Zealanders to govern independently, No wonder John Key wants to fast track this without transparency.

We need to have open debate on the treaty and prevent the need for fast tracking legislation, which will change our lives forever. Are our legislators captured by foreign interests and are those foreign interests, the corporations driving the TTP able to provide irrefutable evidence of their claims? If so, then prove it and allow an open and democratic process.

You can read more about the TTP in an opinion article I wrote for Stuff.


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