The TPPA had turned out to be a bridge too far – even for the NZ Labour Party.
This was not a free trade agreement in the mould of the China-NZ FTA.
It was in the words of the veteran New Zealand diplomat Terrence O’Brien: ‘an economic policy integration agreement’.
And the intent of such documents is indisputably to limit the sovereignty of nation states.
As Professor Tim Hazledine explained in a Herald op-ed article of 3 February 2016:
“The fundamental idea or ideology behind the TPP is that national governments cannot be trusted to act independently on many issues, because they will inevitably succumb to local vested interests. Only the cleansing discipline of untrammelled global free-market forces will deliver efficient outcomes.”
By ‘local vested interests’ the free-marketeers are of course referring to the citizens of the nations concerned.
That is why the opponents of the TPPA talk about the agreement threatening democracy itself.
Exactly how far this message that the TPPA is inimical to New Zealand’s national sovereignty and poses a deadly threat to its democratic institutions has entered public consciousness is what the Government – MFAT – the ‘intelligence community’ – the Police – the NZ-US Council – the National Party and the mainstream news media have no doubt been working like blazes to find out.
Because all of them know that if a substantial portion of the New Zealand population – maybe even a majority – can be convinced that the anti-TPPA message is true and if that conviction can be given political force by the Labour Green and NZ First parties then a great deal more than the future of the TPPA is at stake.
If protecting our national sovereignty and defending our democracy become the battle-cries of the 2017 General Election then the entire neoliberal project will be threatened.