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02 May 2014


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The position put by Richard Maru seems perfectly sensible to me. So called "free trade" might better be described as "free-ish trade with certain conditions and exclusions".

The principal virtue of this form of agreement is that it is almost invariably superior to erecting a massive tariff wall in the forlorn hope that this will protect inefficient indigenous industry. It hasn't, can't and won't work, so doing bilateral and multilateral deals is a better option.

Richard Maru is spot on about PNG being fundamentally a subsistence based economy. It does not yet have, much less need, a consumption driven economy of the type found elsewhere in the world.

Better still, thanks to the far sighted decisions taken at the very beginning of the colonial era, most arable land remains firmly in the hands of the traditional owners. The contrast with the situation in immediate post-colonial Africa could hardly be more striking.

All this allows PNG the relative luxury of being able to progressively engage in world commerce on more favourable terms than might otherwise be the case, provided the economic and political elites can resist the siren song of really huge sums of money. Budding capitalists frequently find this very hard to do.

In relation to Breton Woods and FDR, all I can say is that there seems to be a distressing lack of great political figures right now who might guide us as wisely as their forebears. In an era when the US Federal Reserve's "cunning plan" is to print vast sums of money, my confidence in our collective leadership has sunk to an all time low.

PNG's relative lack of integration with the global economy may turn out to be a very good thing indeed. Perhaps a bit of masterful policy inactivity by PNG is the order of the day?

While you have all been conversing here I've been following Richard Maru and his dreams for establishing the "biggest oil palm plantation in the world" in his electorate.

But I guess you know what he said re trade -

Islands Business | June 2013

Rejecting free trade requires new forms of regionalism

By Adam Wolfenden & Maureen Penjueli*

Papua New Guinea’s trade Minister, Richard Maru, recently set a cat amongst the pigeons by saying that PNG was not interested in the regional trade negotiations known as PACER-Plus. Specifically, Minister Maru commented that “our feelings at the moment is that PACER Plus would be one sided in favour of Australia and New Zealand...We are frustrated with them.

“We can’t export our taro there, they won’t accept our greens...There’s nothing to be gained from a trade agreement at the moment. ‘We cannot justify the huge amount of resources we expend on such negotiations. They are a complete waste of time.”

You can just imagine the immediate typing on keyboards in Canberra. That the comments came from a minister may be surprising to some but the sentiment is nothing new in the region.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo has said that if there was a need for every Melanesian country to reject free trade in favour of fair trade, then they must all act together.

The recent comments made by Pacific MPs who had attended the Pacific Parliamentary and Political Leaders Forum in Auckland say it all.

Attendees from Vanuatu, PNG, and Samoa all criticised the global economic model saying that it was unfair to the Pacific. In the context of the promised benefits that come from free trade, Governor Gary Juffa from PNG summed it best: “The people of the Pacific live on their own land—they are self-sustaining already. If you impose free trade, you are going to take away the opportunities they have to be truly economically independent.” End of quote.

Sadly,if Maru allows Wilmar to come in and take over his electorate and turn it into this huge oil palm plantation, it is likely the people will no longer own their land, they will be land-less peasants, they will find it hard to grow their crops, and they certainly won't be economically independent.

Sorry youngsters (I'm talking to my PNG niece who is probably not yet aware of such arcane historical references). We oldies are talking amongst ourselves.

Bretton Woods was a major international conference held at the end of WW2 to put right the world's economic system after the ravages of war. It served the world pretty well until the birth of Thatcherism and Reaganomics.

And FDR is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. One of the best US Presidents. And he was disabled. A role-model for us all. But out-of-favour now amongst the 'Libs' as he was an interventionist.

Chris - Bretton-Woods wasn't held in secret neither were its participants sworn to secrecy on pain of espionage charges.

In fact FDR said at the outset "The economic health of every country is a proper matter of concern to all its neighbours, near and far."

Robin, while I share your concerns about the impact of "international law" upon our national sovereignty, I think global hegemony by a "world government" is not something we should be worried about.

What we have in the world right now is ample evidence that, as has been the case throughout history, big powers with big ambitions will tend to throw their weight around.

Just look at Russia's recent annexation of the Crimea, which is a classic example of virulent nationalism combined with a 19th century imperialist mindset.

Tsar Vladimir has amply demonstrated that the ideas and concerns that motivated the original Crimean War remain front of mind in the Kremlin.

Similarly, China is now quite belligerently asserting its claim to sovereignty over the entire South China Sea. It has used its navy to do this, up to and including ramming the ships of other nations that dispute its claim.

As for why trade talks are held in secret, the quite prosaic reason is that the participants will only share "commercial in confidence" trade data if they are confident it will not be leaked to someone, somewhere, to their disadvantage. Trust is an awfully fragile commodity when it comes to such negotiations.

Finally, I worked for 38 years in the public service, rising to become a very senior executive. I worked personally with a score or more of different ministers of all political stripes. None of them were stupid, none of them were corrupt and they almost invariably acted in the wider public interest as they understood it. Admittedly, this is South Australia I am discussing, not NSW!

On my observation, there was no sign that they or their parties were keen on reinforcing the power of big business, especially the banks, let alone being even an unwitting part of the establishment of some sort of covert world governance arrangement.

Please do not let the hubris, venality, lies and stupidity of a relative handful of political chancers blind you to the reality that most of our politicians (even those whose ideas I don't like much) are basically sensible people trying their best to do the right thing as they understand it.

If this were not so, then this country would not be in the rather comfortable position it now occupies and you and I would be busily setting up revolutionary cells, not freely participating in an interesting conversation on this site.

I started reading "Atlas Shrugged" (Ayn Rand) but couldn't get past the first 10 pages. The most boring, pretentious, egocentric nonsense ever published - and there's over 1,000 pages of it!

One quote sums it up. "That time and those people are upon you!"


(Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is a lot more fun and he even has jokes!)

The First Law of Philosophy: For every philosopher, there exists an equal and opposite philosopher. The Second Law of Philosophy: They're both wrong.

I think we have to relinquish the notion of "Sovereign" when it comes to the likes of TPP and modern governance.

The window dressing of party-political machinations masks what is otherwise an undertone of Internationalism and the demise of a nation's ability to act within its constitution.

Progressive submission to provisions of UN charters etc means that increasingly, former sovereign nations are impeded from the pursuit of constituted capacity in deference to Globalist principles and practice.

Thusly the locals are frustrated by the indifference shown to their needs not being met by the purported growth and development of resource and energy projects.

Meanwhile the Banking systems and Big Business are grooming the pollies to play out the scenarios drawn up in the name of power and control, and an impetus driving nations into a matrix of centralised governance, economics, and enforcement - on a world scale.

My main point is, why are the negotiations being held in secret? What have the governments got to hide? Why can't we the voters see what is being discussed?

There is a basic contravention of democratic rights here, and I see no justification for it.

Can someone from the government please explain?

It strikes me as highly improbable that any sovereign government is going to blithely sign up to a supposed free trade deal that subjects it to the sorts of constraints that Peter discusses. I mean, how big a set of mugs are our diplomats to agree to such things?

By now, you would need to be a pretty dumb diplomat or trade official to not understand that the USA , at least as far as economics and finance is concerned, is firmly under the control of "the usual suspects" on Wall Street.

It is evident from history that great powers just love "free trade" when they enjoy a huge competitive advantage. Very small powers like PNG and Australia need to approach offers of such deals with great caution.

I have sufficient belief in the basic common sense of our trade representatives and even, heaven forfend, out politicians, to not sign us up to something that is clearly contrary to our national interests.

I trust that the PNG players involved, being relative novices in the arcane world of diplomacy and trade, will take the lead from those wiser in the Byzantine ways of international trade negotiations.

It all depends what else may be on the table, or under it, Chris - KJ

Naomi Klein's book is called 'The Shock Doctrine' and chronicles the use of Milton Friedman's theories about free enterprise.

He said that if you go in and destroy a countries' economic and social system you can then rebuild it your own way and make a lot of money while doing it. The Americans first put it to the test in Chile when they installed Pinochet. They used the same theory in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She published the book in 2007 so it's a little dated but from what I can see Obama hasn't changed anything.

John Le Carre said of it "Impassioned, hugely informative, wonderfully controversial and scary as hell".

She's a Canadian and a very brave lady. The book should be required reading for anyone interested in American imperialism.

If you follow what Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are doing in Australia you can see it has all the hallmarks of Friedmanism.

Johnny - yep, worth a read. A good antidote to the Ayn Rand "we-love-unbridled-capitalism" nonsense which infects so much of the media these days.

Just been catching up on old episodes of Hustle (great fun by the way). Seems the US has taught the world of con-artists a thing or two.

And on "things already happening" -

- Tobacco companies are already suing Australia over plain packaging laws.

- The US Supreme Court has ruled that pharmaceutical companies are exempt from legal liability.

- And the ISDS clauses in the TPP would give say Japanese companies the right to take Australia to international tribunals over decisions they felt impinged on their commercial interests, a right denied to Australian companies.

etc, And as for unlimited extensions of copyright, words fail me.

Never read her, Phil. You recommend?

You been reading Naomi Klein too Johnny?

TPP nogut.

There's plenty of concern about the TPP here in NZ, and frustration about the secrecy of the negotiations. Although i guess a less apathetic public may have demanded more answers. There' a hell of a lot at stake unless politicians driving it can convince us otherwise.

PNG and other parts of the Pacific Islands region are well advised to be cautious of such frameworks, PACER etc.

Perhaps the bottom line is: Who in their right mind can trust these governments that habitually lie to cover up the murderous drive for ever increasing profits for the few and to maintain the system that is steadily devouring the earth?

On the other hand - "TPP talks an abject failure"

This sounds like a bigger, bolder, brighter, badass (Made in the US of A) type of economic imperialism being imposed on the Pacific by Western world governments under the guise of 'free trade'.

Between O'Neill and Obama, we may have our possum cooked!

Then other Pacific Islands Forum members should review the membership status of Australia and New Zealand because such as deal will have major implications on the PICTA and PACER trade agreements between PIF member states.

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