HOLD THE PHONE!

For First Time OIO Does Something About One Of CAFCA’s “Good Character” Complaints


One of the very few alleged “checks and balances” in the Overseas Investment Act is the requirement that the persons owning and/or controlling the applicant transnational corporation be “of good character”. Note that this only applies to individuals, not to the corporations themselves.

The Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) has been making “not of good character” complaints to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) and its predecessor, the Overseas Investment Commission (OIC), since the late 1990s. It’s a long story. Here’s the link to articles about the subject on the Websites of CAFCA and Foreign Control Watchdog 

Not one of our complaints has ever been even partly upheld – until now.

On December 8th, 2016, I wrote to the OIO: “In light of the New York Stock Exchange delisting Agria, we request that you investigate whether the people owning and/or controlling Agria are of good character, and whether they should be allowed to continue own and/or control PGG Wrightson. ‘Agria says it will fight New York Stock Exchange delisting’  This is a quote from a New Zealand Herald article reporting the same thing: ‘The Exchange said it had uncovered evidence demonstrating that the company and its management engaged in operations ‘contrary to the public interest’ and not in keeping with sound public policy pursuant to requirement of Exchange's Listed Company Manual’”.

Unlike when making an Official Information Act request to the OIO (or any other Government agency) there is no time limit that the OIO has to meet to answer a “not of good character” complaint. To this day, the OIO has not given CAFCA its decision about our Agria complaint.

But, right before Christmas (when news of this nature is traditionally, and quietly, released) the OIO included this in its cutely titled newsletter The PeriOIOdical (December 2018)

“OIO investigation into Agria”
“The OIO has investigated the good character of Agria Singapore and former PGG Wrightson Chair Alan Lai in relation to Agria’s shareholding in PGG Wrightson”.
“Both Agria and Mr Lai have co-operated with the OIO investigation, following the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation”. 
“The OIO, Agria and Mr Lai have reached a settlement agreement which required Agria to sell down below its 50.2 percent interest in PGG Wrightson (which it has now done in compliance with the agreement) and provided for penalty proceedings to be filed in the High Court”. 

No acknowledgement of CAFCA’s role and the OIO hasn’t bothered to tell us but we’ll take the credit and chalk it up as a first. More please. The whole subject of “good character” is one that needs to be front and centre in the Government’s stage 2 review of the Overseas Investment Act, which is being undertaken this year.

Murray Horton
Secretary/Organiser

THOMPSON & CLARK JUST TIP OF SPYBERG

Let’s Have An Inquiry Into Whole Covert World Of State Spying





These latest revelations about a whole raft of Government agencies contracting Thompson & Clark to spy on New Zealanders on their behalf are just the latest in a long, sordid history of the State spying on the people. Go back a decade and you’ll find:

  • Thompson & Clark exposed as spying on environmental activists on behalf of the since gone bust Solid Energy
  • Thompson & Clark exposed as spying on animal rights activists on behalf of the State
  • Police spy/infiltrator/agent provocateur Rob Gilchrist exposed as having spied, for money, on a whole raft of activist groups for a decade
  • The release of Security Intelligence Service files on many people (including me) that revealed a long history of obsessive spying on activists. In the case of the only organisation to receive its file – the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa – the file revealed that the SIS had spied on CAFCA for a quarter of a century.


The State, in the form of the Police and the SIS, has always spied on activists. I have been a political activist for not quite 50 years and have documentary evidence that I’ve been spied upon by both.


What is different about these latest revelations is the State contracting out its spying to private enterprise (thus providing itself with the all-important “plausible deniability”).

Plus, the fact that spying net has now been spread much wider than the usual suspects – Communists, protesters, activists, unionists, “eco-terrorists”, etc – right down into the ranks of the Mum and Dad homeowners who were unfortunate enough to be among the victims of the Christchurch quakes and to have an unresolved claim with the singularly unhelpful Southern Response. This is what happens when spies – authorised and unauthorised/privatised – operate in a bubble of arrogance, secrecy and impunity. First, they came for the activists; then they came for the insurance policy holders.

But this stuff is only the tip of the spyberg. It involves “humint” (human intelligence): infiltration, surveillance, covert recording of meetings, that sort of thing. The vast bulk of modern spying involves “elint” (electronic intelligence) and it is carried out 24/7/365, silently and covertly monitoring all manner of communications. In this country it is carried out by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), whose key tool is the Waihopai spy base.

The GCSB and Waihopai is used not only to spy on foreigners, as directed by the US National Security Agency (NSA) as part of the Five Eyes spy alliance with the US, UK, Canada and Australia. It is also used to spy on New Zealanders. When it was caught doing so illegally (take a bow, Kim Dotcom), the Key government did not punish the criminals but legalised the crime. Despite a massive campaign against it, the Key government amended the GCSB Act to allow the Bureau to spy on New Zealanders.

That’s the bigger picture here. Let’s have an inquiry into the whole covert world of State spying – the GCSB, SIS, Police and the contractors such as Thompson and Clark – and the cloak of anti-democratic impunity in which it operates.

In the meantime, Anti-Bases Campaign, which has been campaigning on this issue since the 1980s, is doing our small bit. We’ll be back at the Waihopai spy base on Saturday January 26th calling for it to be closed and for the GCSB to be abolished.

Murray Horton
Secretary/Organiser




Want some privacy? 
Use Signal – www.signal.org - as recommended by Edward Snowden




Watchdog 148 (August 2018)

available now




In This Issue

Foreign Investment & Labour Government; TPPA; Privatisation & Asset Sales; Donald Trump; Space Is The New Frontier For Billionaires And Warmongers:  Murray Horton, Bill Rosenberg, Linda Hill, Dennis Small, Jeremy Agar, Mary-Ellen O’Connor, Alistair Duncan



New Overseas Investment Amendment Act

CAFCA Says Don't Expect Much And You Won't Be Disapppointed


The Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) congratulates the Government for passing the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, which will become law within weeks. At least New Zealand now has a Government that recognises that foreign control is an issue. More than that, it recognises that it is a problem and has set out to do something about it. What it intends to do, however, doesn’t amount to very much. But it’s better than a big fat nothing, which is what the previous National government did for nine long years.

The “something” which this Government is doing doesn’t amount to much – some restrictions on foreigners buying residential houses, which was always the least consequential aspect of the issue (and those restrictions have since been watered down). More substantively, some restrictions on foreigners buying farmland, which is a long overdue response to an issue that outrages New Zealanders right across the full spectrum of society.

Once again, there are all sorts of loopholes and exemptions – the entire forestry sector, which is a huge feature of land sales to foreigners; water bottling export plants; luxury golf resorts; prime real estate sold to millionaires and billionaires for bolt holes. And of the biggest feature of the whole foreign control issue – namely transnational corporations hoovering up local businesses and the wholesale dominance of whole sectors of the economy by transnationals – well, this “transformative” Government has neither said nor done a thing.

Some context is necessary. CAFCA's Key Facts  - all taken from official sources - prove that from 1989 until 2017 - through cycles of Labour and National governments; under Prime Ministers Lange, Palmer, Moore, Bolger, Shipley, Clark, Key and English; under both FPP and MMP electoral systems: foreign control of the New Zealand economy increased 653%. That’s a sobering fact.

Nothing much has changed under Prime MInister Ardern (or temporary PM Peters). It’s very much business as usual. Indeed, one of this Government's very first actions was to back flip on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and sign NZ up to a deal that entrenches and extends the domination of the NZ economy by transnationals.

As CAFCA has always said, what we’re experiencing is recolonisation but by company rather than country. This Government is simply ameliorating some of the most visible and egregious effects but otherwise actively facilitating the process. As the old saying goes – don’t expect much and you won’t be disappointed.

Murray Horton
Secretary/Organiser

TPPA Bulletin #93

February 2017



The TPPA is dead - what next?
The United States has now formally pulled out the TPPA, killing the agreement.

The TPPA as we know it might be dead, but the ideas it was based on and the powerful interests behind them are not.  There is no doubt that threats similar to the TPPA will emerge in the coming months and years.

Petition against a Zombie TPPA 
On 14-15 March 2017 the New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay is meeting with the remaining TPPA countries in an attempt to revive the agreement.

It’s Our Future and our friends at Action Station have prepared petition telling Minister McClay that we don’t want any sort of zombie TPPA.  Please add your name here and share widely.  

More information on the upcoming Chile ministerial meeting the risks of a zombie TPPA are set out later on in this bulletin.

Contents of this Bulletin
Now that the TPPA has fallen apart their are a number of possibilites about how the TPPA governments and the corporate lobbyists that back them will reorganise themselves.  There is also an important question about how China — the United States’ main rival for influence in the Asia-Pacific region — will respond to the death of the agreement.

There has been a lot going on in the last couple months, on many different fronts.  So you don’t have to wade through all of it if you don’t have the time, here’s a quick list of the topics covered:
  1. The possibility of some sort of zombie TPPA going ahead without the United States and why this is a bad idea;
  2. Donald Trump’s hint at a one-on-one trade agreement with New Zealand;
  3. New negotiations for an expanded agreement with China;
  4. An introduction and update on both the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (or “RCEP”, a set of trade negotiations led by China);
  5. An introduction and update on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA); and — most importantly —
  6. What you can do to stop our Government getting New Zealand tangled-up in another mess like the TPPA.
TPPA without the United States?
There is talk from the remaining TPPA countries about continuing with the agreement without the United States, particularly from Australia.  The New Prime Minister, Bill English, has also indicated that he would like to pursue this possibility, first in a press conference and more recently in a prepared statement following a meeting with the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Trade Ministers from all the TPPA countries except the United States are due to attend a meeting in Chile on 14-15 March 2017 in an attempt to resusitate some, or all, of the TPPA.
It’s concerning that the New Zealand government still hasn’t got the message that the TPPA was a bad idea and that New Zealanders don’t want it.  Without the United States, the TPPA is an even worse idea.

The  whole point of the TPPA for New Zealand, according to its backers,  was to gain access to heavily protected US markets.  The motivation of the United States, on the other hand, was to freeze or rewrite the rules of New Zealand and the other TPPA countries to better suit the interests of its corporations.

New Zealand got a bad deal in the TPPA.  The economic benefits that we would potentially have gained were marginal, and the costs to the New Zealand public and our natural environment would have been enormous. 

It makes no sense for the National-led government to now consider chaining New Zealand to a set of rules written to meet the needs of corporate America without gaining anything in return.
As Professor Kelsey has written (also well-reported on RNZ):

The economic modelling the government relied on to sell the TPPA last year had zero credibility and failed to account for the costs. Take the US out of that equation and any attempt to pitch the agreement as having net benefits to New Zealand is risible.

Similarly, former IOF co-ordinator, and current Green Party MP Barry Coates has also put it well in a recent blog post:

Most of the very small economic gains to New Zealand from the TPPA were going to come from trade with the USA, and these benefits were offset by the economic costs of the deal. The economics were never worth the risks of being sued by multinationals, the loss of government powers to regulate business, the threats to the environment and human rights, and the loss of our sovereignty. A TPPA without the USA makes even less sense. 

The TPPA contains rules that are specifically there because the USA insisted on them. For example, new rules on issues like patents and copyright are not good for New Zealand, but we were told we’d have to accept them as the cost of getting greater access to American markets for our agricultural exports. Without the USA on board, we face all the costs of these patent and copyright rules, but none of the supposed benefits we were supposed to get in return. 

Much of the TPPA text was drawn from the US template. Updating it for a new deal without the USA would be in the interests of the US, but not in our interests. We’d be better off starting from scratch and developing a new type of fair and sustainable trade agreement.


Finally, even conservative commentator Patrick Smellie has written a scathing opinion piece (entitled “Enough already on the TPPA”) on Stuff.co.nz where  he rightly asks:

[W]hy our Government would allow the political agenda in the first serious week back at work to be dominated by a zombie trade deal.  Why would Bill English, so early in the process of stamping his identity on the prime ministership, give all that air-time to reminding a large swathe of the population that he supports a deal that most New Zealanders had convinced themselves was not just a bad one, but a symbol of everything they think is going wrong with the world?

The TPPA is dead.  Let’s keep it that way.  It’s Our Future and Action Station have prepared a petition to Trade Minister Todd McClay reminding him that New Zealanders didn’t want the TPPA in the first place and that we will resist any half-baked zombie agreement, both in the streets and in the polling booth. 

One-on-one negotiations with the United States?
When Donald Trump pulled the US out of the TPPA, he also directed that the US :

[D]eal directly with individual countries on a one-on-one (or bilateral) basis in negotiating future trade deals … [and to enter into] wherever possible, bilateral trade negotiations to promote American industry, protect American workers, and raise American wages.

Trump’s top trade advisor Peter Navarro has also been clear that he intends to maintain US influence in the Asia Pacific region by negotiating one-on-one trade agreements with the TPPA countries, mentioning New Zealand by name.

Over the last 30 years New Zealand has been a strong supporter of multilateral (big group) or plurilateral (small group) trade negotiations — the idea being that, as a small country, we have very little bargaining power and are better off working in a rules-based system alongside lots of other countries.  With so little to work with, a bilateral (one-on-one) trade agreement between New Zealand and the United States would be a disaster.  A bilateral trade agreement negotiated under the Trump administration would be worse still.  So far, Trump has hinted that a condition for any trade deals under his watch will require protections for the profits of big US Pharmaceutical companies (i.e. goodbye PHARMAC) and may include a clause allowing the US to pull out on 30 days notice if it thinks fit.
 
For now, at least, both Bill English and Trade Minister Todd McClay are skeptical about a one-on-one trade agreement with the US.  If these negotiations ever happen, New Zealanders will need to raise huge resistance like we did last February to stop what would surely be a bad deal.     

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or “RCEP” is an agreement being negotiated between the 10 ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.  Up to date information on RCEP can be found here at the excellent www.bilaterals.org website.

Prior to the death of the TPPA, RCEP was viewed as a competing trade agreement to shape trade in the Asia-Pacific region away from US influence and towards China.  With the US out of the TPPA, it is unknown whether the RCEP negotiations will speed up (to fill the void left by the TPPA) or go on the backburner (because there is no longer any need to compete against the TPPA).  The next RCEP negotiating round is scheduled to be in Japan in late February.  For now at least, there appears to be little chance of RCEP negotiations being concluded in the near future and no negotiating texts have yet been leaked.   

Interestingly, China and South Korea — two of the major powers in the the RCEP negotiations —have accepted invitations to attend the Chile ministerial meeting with the TPPA parties.  It is too early to draw any strong conclusions from this, but it would appear that there is at a least a possibility of future negotiations between the remaining TPPA countries and the RCEP grouping.

 An updated trade agreement with China
New Zealand and China have had a bilateral trade agreement in place since 2007.  In November last year, the government announced that it was negotiating an expansion of the agreement.  Earlier this month both Foreign Minister Murray McCully and Bill English met with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to discuss: “the upgrade of the nations' bilateral free trade agreement, China's possible involvement in what remains of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and New Zealand's role in China's One Belt, One Road strategy”.  McCully announced afterwards that a series of negotiations would begin in the near future.  The scope and timeline of these negotiations are still under wraps.

Trade in Services Agreement
The Trade in Services Agreement (“TiSA”) is a proposed agreement to roll back regulation of international trade in services.  There are 23 countries involved in the negotiations, the most significant being the EU (who negotiate as a single bloc) and the US.

While TiSA is a narrower agreement than the TPPA (it doesn’t deal with border tariffs on goods and it doesn’t include some of the worst parts of the TPPA like Investor State Dispute Resolution) if it is agreed to, it will have a big effect on New Zealand’s ability both to regulate in the public interest and to support local organisations to provide service to the New Zealand public.

In a nutshell, the idea of TiSA is to make it easier for service providers (such banks, insurance companies, internet service provider, freight companies and healthcare providers) to sell their services to consumers in another country.  This would be done by stripping away regulations and other practices which get in the way of corporate profits.  This deregulation would then by locked in by the TiSA agreement so that future governments are bound to protect corporate interests rather than the public good.  One of the areas which TiSA would have a huge impact on is the regulation of financial services.  Weak regulation of banks, finance companies and insurers brought the global economy to its knees in the 2008 global financial crisis.  Now, after countless millions of public money has been spent bailing out corporations that were “too big to fail”, the same corporate interests are trying to lock in the same regulatory approach which led to the GFC.  TiSA would also have huge implications for the protection and storage of online data, which has led to strong opposition from privacy watchdogs, particulary in the EU.

A good summary of what TISA represents is available on the www.bilaterals.org website: Ten things you need to know about TiSA.  The most recent negotiating texts have also recently been leaked and there will be expert analysis available in the coming weeks.

TiSA was rumoured to be close to completion in late 2016.  However, with Trump coming into power it appears that no more negotiating rounds will be held until the new US position becomes clear.  The most recent leaks (above) also reveal that the negotiating countries are still a long way apart on some issues.

Future campaign for a progressive trade policy
With the immediate threat of the TPPA gone, we now have an opportunity to reframe the discussion around trade away from corporate greed, unlimited growth and ecological blindness towards a new economic system centred around the needs of ordinary people and environmental protection.

In the lead-up to the New Zealand Parliamentary election, It’s Our Future will be running a campaign pushing for future trade agreements which reflect a different and more progressive set of values than what we have experienced for the last 30 years.

We want to hear from you about what an alternative model for international trade could look like, and / or what values would underpin this.  Please send your ideas to itsourfuturenz@gmail.com.  We will share these ideas back in upcoming bulletins and use them to develop a set of campaign demands.

Other links
A lot of the same ground as this Bulletin is covered in Professor Jane Kelsey’s excellent blog entry from 5 February:  One year on from TPPA mass protests – how we can shape trade for the 99% not the 1%?

Former IOF co-ordinator Edward Miller has also written about his views about the death of the TPPA and what we can expect in the coming months and years: Why I’m Not Thrilled the TPPA Has Been Trumped

Congratulations if you made it to the end of this (very long) Bulletin, please don't forget to sign the Action Station petition against a zombie TPPA before the Chile ministeral meeting on 14-15 March.

Ngā mihi koutou, please get in touch at itsourfuturenz@gmail.com if you have any questions or comments.

Stephen Parry
It’s Our Future Coordinator
Itsourfuturenz@gmail.com
www.itsourfuture.org.nz   

The latest downloads



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