Press Release – Jane Kelsey

The government seems intent on misleading New Zealanders that Parliament will have the final say about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, said Professor Jane Kelsey.1 October 2013

Key must stop misleading NZers that Parliament has power over the TPPA

‘The government seems intent on misleading New Zealanders that Parliament will have the final say about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’, said Professor Jane Kelsey.

The Prime Minister claimed again on TV3s Firstline this morning that Parliament gets to debate and ratify the treaty once it is agreed.

‘This mistruth has been repeated so many times by Ministers and National MPs that it has to a deliberate attempt to defuse growing concerns about the secrecy of these negotiations and anti-democratic nature of the agreement’.

The Cabinet Manual says, in unequivocal terms: ‘7.112: In New Zealand, the power to take treaty action rests with the Executive.’

In practice, that means the Cabinet. Cabinet decides whether to enter into
negotiations, the negotiating mandate and any revisions to it, and what trade-offs are made to conclude a deal.

Cabinet then approves the signing of the text agreed to by the Minister.

The Cabinet Manual confirms that by signing an agreement the executive is indicating an intention for New Zealand to be bound to that text.

This constitutes a good-faith obligation under international law. Parliament does not get to see the text until after it is signed.

The text is then tabled in Parliament and referred to a select committee. But the committee cannot change the text. Nor can Parliament.

Even if a parliamentary majority voted against the TPPA, Cabinet still has the power to ratify it – and would be expected to under international law.

Groser and Key will be assuming this does not become an issue, because Labour has supported such agreements in the past.

‘David Cunliffe’s call for release of the draft text so people can assess its implications shows that support can no longer be assumed’, Professor Kelsey observed.

‘Clearly, many New Zealanders agree’.

A petition for release of the TPPA text was launched yesterday, along with a celebrity video. In just four hours it had gathered more than 700 signatures. 

ENDS

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