A future Labour Government would pull out of the TPP even if it included a good deal for dairy.

Labour leader Andrew Little, told POLITIK last night that the party’s five bottom lines had been agreed by Caucus and it would expect that all had to be met if a Labour Government was to stay in the agreement.

Last month the Labour caucus agreed to five bottom lines which must be met before it would support the agreement.

  • Pharmac must be protected
  • Corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest
  • New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farm land and housing to non-resident foreigner buyers
  • The Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld
  • Meaningful gains are made for our farmers in tariff reductions and market access.

 Asked specifically what would happen if the negotiators concluded a good deal on dairy access but other areas did not meet the party’s bottom lines Mr Little said “bottom lines are bottom lines”.

“Our bottom lines were agreed by Caucus, “he said.

“Ï can’t see Caucus saying we’ve got one out of five therefore we should be pleased.

“Their view will be bottom lines are bottom lines and we mean what we said.”

Mr Little appears to be hardening Labour’s stand on the TPP which is possibly a recognition of the widespread opposition on the left of New Zealand politics and within the union movement to the agreement.

But even so there are those within Labour’s Caucus who would like to see a way whereby a future Labour Government could support a TPP deal.

MPs like Phil Goff or David Parker are thought to think that way.


Speaking in June during the debate in Parliament on the Korea Free Trade Agreement, Mr Parker said: “We are proud of being a pro-trade party.

“We are pleased to claim some substantial credit, most of which goes to the Hon Phil Goff, for the Chinese free-trade agreement. “

And Mr Parker referred to the traditional bi-partisan stance taken by Labour and National on international trade agreements.

“It is well known that there is a high level of agreement across the House, between the two main parties, that New Zealand is a trading nation that has economic advantages from facing fewer barriers to that trade abroad.”

The level of Opposition within Labour and among its supporters now threatens that bi partisan support.

Initially when Labour proposed its bottom lines they were greeted with scepticism by anti-TPP campaigners.

Professor Jane Kelsey said only one was a true red line – the right to regulate foreign investment in residential land.

“The rest of Labour’s principles you can drive a bus through,” she said.

And that was what was probably originally intended; that the Caucus position was really a fudge designed to be a holding position until there was some more detail on what might be in the agreement.

But the big anti TPP marches and a stepped up lobbying campaign by the opponents have been very directly aimed at Labour.

Mr Little places several caveats on his position.

He points out that Labour does not know what is in the agreement and that it is possible that time may defeat the negotiators.

But things continue to move.

Trade Minister Tim Groser has flown to Kuala Lumpur for what will undoubtedly be bilateral talks on the TPP with Japan and the US (within the context of an ASEAN Ministerial meeting) but officially he is there to talk a variety of trade deals including the proposed Regional Co-operation Economic Partnership (RCEP) – the Chinese led proposal for an Asian trade pact including India and Japan.

“East Asia has more than 3 billion people and there is increasing regional economic integration, “he said.

“’RCEP countries include 7 of our top 10 trading partners who took nearly $30 billion of our exports in 2014.

“Helping New Zealand businesses gain greater access to that massive customer base will provide significant benefits to our economy.”

And that is the difficulty for Labour – there is an inexorable global push towards economic integration being conducted via bilateral and regional trade pacts.

As well as the TPP and RCEP at some stage New Zealand may negotiate  a proposed free trade agreement with the European Union.

Prime Minister John Key and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both expressed support for this. 

If that were to take place it could  incorporate some of the philosophies behind the TPP.

Labour’s position on the TPP may well then define its position in the political spectrum more than almost any decision it has made in recent years.