“E ngā iwi, e ngā mana, e ngā hau e wha, tēnā koutou.
Greetings to the people, the great ones and to those from from afar.
My name is Grant Brookes.
I am a Registered Nurse, and the president and co-leader of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa.
And this? This is the first day of a future where trade agreements serve the needs of citizens and our natural environment. Despite the weather, it is wonderful to be here to share this day with you.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation objects to the New Zealand government’s intention to sign the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement in Chile later today. We assert that although some improvements have been made, the CPTPP is not ready to be signed.
Trade Minister David Parker acknowledges that the deal is not perfect. He told Newshub last week that he gives it a score of “seven out of ten for New Zealand”.
Let’s just imagine, for a minute, that that score is accurate.
What does seven out of ten mean, when it comes to your health? What if you went to the Emergency Department with a serious cut, and you were told that you could have stitches to seven tenths of your wound? What if you were in severe pain, and you were given treatment that left you 30 percent sore?
Nurses work for the best possible health status for all peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand. We cannot support the CPTPP because despite improvements on the original TPPA, threats remain to population health and all that sustains it.
Intellectual property provisions which would delay access to affordable new medicines have been “suspended” for now, but they are still in the text and could be reactivated.
The same is true, despite side agreements, for the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions which privilege multinational corporate interests above our sovereign and indigenous interests.
The Treaty of Waitangi exception in the agreement is not robust enough to ensure indigenous rights are protected and it’s not consistent with the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal. This means Māori-led efforts to address health disparities could be undermined.
The Labour Chapter will not protect the decent jobs, liveable incomes and fair treatment at work needed to sustain healthy communities. And the Environment Chapter does not even mention climate change, which the World Health Organisation calls “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century”.
Defenders of the deal point elsewhere, to possible economic gains (though no-one today is claiming they’ll be huge).
But is that the right way to look at it? What are a few extra dollars really worth, if you don’t have your health? Around the world, the thinking on trade and investment agreements is shifting, away from a sole focus on narrowly-conceived economic gains.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation has promoted this shift, from first hearing of the TPPA the better part of a decade ago, through the High Court challenge to the government’s secrecy which our other co-leader Kerri Nuku joined in 2015, to the massive protests in 2016, and up until today. We will continue to work for this healthy future.
In reality there’s no way of knowing how the CPTPP rates on a health scorecard – whether it’s seven out of ten, or one out of ten. This is because there has been no health impact assessment of the deal.
Until there is an independent health impact assessment, which the Labour Party campaigned for while in opposition, then as nurses we say please, ‘Don’t sign!’.