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Legal experts to host Wellington public meeting on the TPPA

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Feb 13, 2018  -  Legal experts will host a meeting at Wesley Church, 75 Taranaki Street, on Wednesday 14 February at 6.30 pm as part of a nationwide tour informing the public about the rebrand of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Dr Jane Kelsey, Professor of Law at the University of Auckland, is a leading scholar on international trade and investment agreements. She is joined by Dr Burcu Kilic, from the US organisation Public Citizen, who provides technical assistance to governments and civil society groups on intellectual property law and global access to medicine, as well as former MP and employment lawyer Laila Harré. The event will also provide an update on how local activists are organising in opposition to the Government’s plan to sign up on 8 March in Chile – without Parliament having seen the final text! – and later ratify the agreement.

Prior to last year’s election, the Labour Party, New Zealand First and the Green Party all said they would not support ratification of the TPPA. During the parliamentary examination of the text, Labour cited concerns about sovereignty, secrecy and inadequate economic modelling leading to uncertainty in projected outcomes; the Greens added that the TPPA is “inimical to the imperative of sustainability”; and New Zealand First focused on the anticipated dangers of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).

Last Thursday, ExportNZ and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade hosted a meeting at which the Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker told the attendees that those issues had been fixed in recent negotiations. TPP Free Wellington and Unions Wellington showed up to let the Minister know that they will continue to challenge the Government’s plans because nothing has changed expect the spin.

The “new” text is exactly the same, the only change being that 22 of the 1,000-plus original provisions have been suspended. These 22 provisions have not been removed so they can be revived if and when the United States comes back on board, as the Trump administration has indicated it is willing to do. When pushed on this point, Minister Parker said that New Zealand could veto any attempt by the United States to join if that would compromise the Labour Party’s five “bottom lines”: protecting Pharmac, upholding the Treaty of Waitangi, making meaningful gains in tariff reductions and market access, maintaining the right to restrict land and house sales to foreigners, and stopping corporations from suing the New Zealand government for regulating in the public interest. That, of course, would not stop a future government from giving up these important aspects of New Zealand’s sovereignty simply to reduce tariffs for exporting industries. And what was the Minister’s response to these serious concerns? “Time will tell.”

Even now, in fact, Labour’s bottom lines have not been met, as the legal experts will explain to the Wellington audience on Wednesday evening. The so-called Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) contains all of the core investor protections that are predicted to restrict the ability of Parliament to make laws in the interests of New Zealanders. There has been no health impact assessment or analysis of the economic costs and benefits, as the governing parties called for when they were in opposition. The Crown has not discussed how it intends to strengthen protections for Māori, as recommended by the Waitangi Tribunal. And it is all well and good for the Prime Minister to call climate change her generation’s “nuclear-free moment”, but that sort of rhetoric would be undercut by signing up to an agreement that prevents action on environmental concerns by empowering foreign investors to sue, for example, if the Government sought to close coal mines and roll back permits to prospect for offshore petroleum.

Come along to Wesley Church, 75 Taranaki Street, on Wednesday 14 February at 6.30 pm to learn about how and why we should push the Government not to sign such a bad deal.

The event is organised by It’s Our Future and the Council of Trade Unions.

| A TPP Free Wellington and Unions Wellington release   ||  February 13, 2018   |||