Friday, September 14, 2007

The cost of a US-NZ FTA

Earlier in the week, John Key promised that if elected, National would negotiate a free trade agreement with the US. But quite apart from the fact that it's an empty promise - the decision is not and never has been in our hands - its questionable as to whether it would even be desirable. Joe Hendren looks at the US's list of New Zealand policies it considers to be "trade barriers" [PDF] to see what the cost of an FTA with the US would be, and finds that the US would demand not just that we allow open access for GM crops (on which people's milage may vary), but also a general weakening of biosecurity and the imposition of US-style intellectual property regulation (so, mandatory DRM and perpetual extensions of the copyright term to protect rent-seekers and coupon-clippers). More importantly, it may also cost us Pharmac - the government's use of its market power to squeeze better deals out of pharmaceutical companies (and hence provide better healthcare to New Zealanders) is considered bythe US to be a "trade barrier". So, a US-NZ FTA could see us all paying more for prescriptions simply to line the pockets of American pharmaceutical companies. It is difficult to see how this can possibly be considered to be in the interests of ordinary New Zealanders.

As Joe points out, the media have failed to consider the cost of a deal, and no-one is asking Key how much of the above he is willing to give up for one. Maybe it's time we did?