Negotiations over the Transpacific Partnership Agreement continued in Singapore last week with chief negotiators reporting the negotiations are on ‘an accelerated track toward conclusion of a next-generation, comprehensive agreement’ by the end of this year.
However, TEU and other observers of the negotiations are increasingly concerned that an agreement may lead to increasing pressure to privatise state financial assets. Many similar trade agreements have clauses that require ‘increasingly liberalisation’ – that is the agreements only permits governments to move their rules and regulations in favour of free market policies, not against them.
This ratcheting effect means that even if a trade agreement does not limit the scope of a current government to govern, it places increasing restrictions and pressure on all future governments, particularly those that favour local businesses and public services ahead of multinational businesses. In effect, it limits the democratic choices of future governments.
New Zealand’s public tertiary education sector includes a large number of state-owned financial assets that some for profit education providers argue give public education a financial advantage over its for profit competitors. Increasing liberalisation of these financial assets could see pressure on future governments either to sell those assets or to provide similar assets to competing foreign-owned private education providers.
TEU national president Lesley Francey says where the TPPA affects tertiary education it should be negotiated and agreed publicly by tertiary education experts rather than negotiated secretly by trade experts.
“The first goal of any trade agreement should be public education not private profit.”