TPP's economic benefits challenged

1:47 pm on 22 January 2016

New research on the Trans-Pacific Partnership argues the benefits do not outweigh the costs.

An aerial view of a container ship carrying exports (file)

Photo: 123RF

A group of researchers has released a paper that analyses the economics of the free trade deal, and they say the government should reconsider.

The report (PDF, 432KB) is part of a series of analyses - funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation and New Zealand Public Service Association - on the potential implications of the deal.

More on the TPP

An economist and co-author of the paper, Geoff Bertram, said the TPP would provide only modest economic benefits.

Mr Bertram said the government only spoke of the positives of the agreement but did not acknowledge the negatives, which were "significant".

"If you are to accept the modelling work that the government prefers, it's rather like saying 'would you like a wage rise of 1 percent in 15 years' time?

"It's all expressed in terms of enormous numbers of dollars, billions of dollars, but the fact of the matter is it is a very small shift," he said.

Mr Bertram said the TPP's investor-state dispute provisions, which gave foreign investors the power to sue the government for introducing legislation that harmed their investments, would have a "chilling" effect.

He said the provisions would deter future governments from a raft of regulatory and industrial policies that would be in the public interest.

However, the executive director of New Zealand's International Business Forum, Stephen Jacobi, said the country needed the deal in order to thrive and prosper.

"Not signing the TPP would be economic suicide for New Zealand. It would cut us off from a large number of our major markets; it would give our competitors in those markets a leg up and would make it very difficult for us to compete," he said.

Mr Jacobi dismissed Mr Bertram's concerns about investor-state dispute provisions as "ridiculous".

"The reality is that we have built into TPP, as we have in all our other FTAs [Free Trade Agreements], the continuing right of the government to regulate in the public interest - provided the government continues to offer the sorts of treatment to foreign investors that we have been doing in the past."

Foreign investment was critical to New Zealand's economy as the global market provided the country with its livelihood, he said.

The TPP is due to be signed in Auckland in two weeks.

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