Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Personal Values and Support (or Not) for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Personal Values and Support (or Not) for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

Article excerpt

In this study, the personal values of Schwartz's value inventory and personality traits of empathy and systemising were measured and then used to predict people's self-reported knowledge and support (or otherwise) for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Trade and the TPPA

Free trade in its simplest form is the buying and selling of goods and services between countries without the governments applying tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions which may disadvantage either country from conducting business in the other (Saggi & Yildiz, 2011). Multilateral trade agreements aim to free trade amongst three or more nations and are complex and take time to negotiate. The TPPA is one such multilateral free trade agreement and, at the time of the research, involved 12 countries, including New Zealand.

Ever since Adam Smith (1776) presented his division of labour theory and David Ricardo (1821) detailed the comparative advantage of trading between countries, modern economists have thought free trade is good (e.g. Whaples, 2009). However, the enthusiasm of economic experts is often not shared by the general public (e.g. Evans & Kelley, 2002; Mayda & Rodrik, 2001; Scheve and Slaughter, 2001), and a number of suggestions have been put forward as to why the views of economic experts and the general public might differ (e.g. Baron & Kemp, 2004; Kemp 2007; Sapienza & Zingales, 2013). Given this background, it is perhaps unsurprising that the TPPA deal reached on 5 October 2015 was received with little enthusiasm in New Zealand (and many other countries). For example, in New Zealand, a 3 News Reid Research poll from November 2015 reported that 54% opposed the TPPA, while 34% supported it and 12% were undecided (Sabin, 2015). An earlier poll by Colmar Brunton in September 2015 had more undecided respondents, with 32% saying they 'Don't Know', 24% saying 'Should Sign' and 44% saying 'Shouldn't Sign'.

Different views of the TPPA were widely reported in the media. Generally, supporters emphasised the economic (and to some extent social) benefits that would result from the reduction of foreign tariffs and quotas. Opposition focussed initially on the secrecy in which the negotiations were carried out (Sapienza & Zingales, 2013). After the text became public, issues such as increased cost of medical drugs, extensions to copyright, the empowerment of corporations, and restrictions on the sovereignty of the New Zealand government were often raised (e.g. McQuillan, 2016). A very brief survey carried out by two of the present authors at the end of 2015 indicated that secrecy, possible unemployment, medical drug costs, and sovereignty were the most important issues for those opposing. This survey also indicated that self-confessed knowledge of the TPPA was often low.

Trade and personal values

Thus, there were a number of good reasons why people might support or oppose the TPPA. However, given the relative lack of public knowledge of the issue, the sheer complexity and length of the agreement (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2016), and the politicised nature of the debate, it is likely that people's support or opposition was often based on a fairly simple evaluation of whether the TPPA appeared to be compatible with their values. For example, one later protester's placard read: "We care about other people" (Truebridge, 2016). Given that the values and traits of individuals affect decision-making processes in a number of ways, and given the variety of people's responses to the TPPA, it seemed worthwhile to consider whether there might be a relationship between people's values and their support or opposition to the agreement. Could it be then that people opposed the TPPA because they felt it contradicted their values?

For examining values, the Schwartz (1992, 1994b) value inventory was used in the present study. This inventory follows Schwartz's (1992, 1994a) theory of basic values in positing ten distinct values which are universally recognised across all cultures. …

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