The Trans Pacific Partnership lacks transparency

I was stopped on Lambton Quay recently by an elderly Japanese gentleman, with a clipboard. He showed me the words TPPA and Pharmac. He was pleased that I did know about this, and that I was also aware of the Japanese people’s opposition to their government’s attempts to join in. All is connected…

The Trans Pacific Partnership, which is an inter-government agreement between New Zealand and eight other nations, is another part of the intricate web mentioned in an earlier opinion piece.

The Trans Pacific Partnership is important, more because of what it is not, rather than what we might expect it to be; a free trade agreement between sovereign nations.

  • The Trans Pacific Partnership is not transparent – details are to be kept secret for 4 years – not open to public scrutiny by a decision of the National government in response to a widely supported petition, but later governments will still be bound by its provisions.
  • The Trans Pacific Partnership is not free or equal trade – NZ will be obliged to lower or even scrap its tariffs, but may not receive access to other markets on the same terms. I note that Bill English said recently that it may take a year before NZ lowers its tariffs to Pacific Island nations. Australia concluded an agreement with the U.S. in 2005, and is still waiting for access for its sugar to the U.S. market. Other agreements are stalled in the U.S. Congress and are unlikely to proceed in 2012, a Presidential election year.
  •  The Trans Pacific Partnership may become possible for foreign governments to scrutinise or influence NZ legislation, or even sue the NZ government, if its profits are constrained – a Swedish nuclear energy company is suing the German government over its policy to close nuclear energy plants. Philip Morris has attempted to sue Australia over plain packaging for cigarettes.
  • Protection of the environment may not be included or enforceable in the negotiations. If Solid Energy is sold off, we will have little power to include environmental concerns over increased CO2 emissions in its terms of reference. Deep sea prospecting and mining exploration appear to be exempt from the EPA in NZ now.

These are only some of the serious drawbacks to NZ signing The Trans Pacific Partnership largely controlled by the U.S., unless we, the people, have the right to scrutinise its provisions. Our jobs, wages and industries will all be at risk, our economy pushed further into the red. Do we seriously believe that the enormously powerful farm lobby or the fossil fuel industry in the U.S. will be happy to see their profits threatened by our requirements to preserve our ‘clean, green image’ in trading with us?

It behoves us to inform ourselves and demand credible answers from our politicians – whom some of us elected on 26 November.

Patricia Kane is a retired librarian and a grandmother

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