Labour's risky TPP message

Posted October 6, 2015

Labour need to be absolutely clear with their message on the TPP if they want to avoid alienating potential voters. They risk falling into the same trap they did on the flag debate.

The current message appears to be that the party is for free trade, but has five bottom lines to satisfy before supporting the agreement. Is Labour seriously saying it may not support an agreement that cuts 93 percent of our tariffs with the other 11 countries? That appears to be their message.

Do they not agree with Helen Clark said that it would be unthinkable to walk away from such an agreement? I think most labour members would agree with their former leader. Their Ministers were highly pro-active in this area, and it was the Clark Government that signed the agreement with China.

If the party doesn’t support the TPP, it would be a huge turnaround. It would also alienate centre voters who would see the massive benefits of the deal.

Where does Labour really stand? This is identical to the flag debate. They seem to believe one thing and say another. Would they seriously not sign because dairy wasn’t the big winner? There seem to be mixed messages again.

They need to be clear on where they stand and this message must be consistent with all MPs. If they win in 2017, would they do all they could to exit the TPP? I doubt it.

They are in a tough position. They want to distinguish themselves from the government. They are also the only party that would be accused of a massive U-turn if they win power and change their views. Minor parties can say what they want, because they’ll never have enough votes to force their policies into reality as part of a government.

But Labour should agree with the government where they believes policies are sensible and focus its energy where there are clear differences of opinion. Then they would be seen as principled and potentially a realistic government in waiting.

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