Open Letter to the Hon. Tim Groser

Press Release – TPP Action Group

Open Letter to the Hon. Tim Groser, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee.Open Letter to the Hon. Tim Groser, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee.

As concerned members of the community and representatives of the organisations named below, we wish to express our opposition to the secrecy around negotiations with the eleven other nations involved in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). We know that New Zealand is the repository for the TPPA documents and believe it should gain the partners’ agreement to the release of the TPPA text.

The TPPA is significant in that it will affect the lives of 790 million people in the Asia Pacific region. It is ambitious in scope covering 40% of world trade, but we also note that much of this agreement is not about trade.

We understand that the TPPA will influence New Zealand’s participation in regional economic activity and it is essential that the well being of the people of Aotearoa – New Zealand and the protection of our unique environment are paramount in these negotiations.

Notwithstanding the secrecy of the negotiations, we have some appreciation of their content from the publicly available information (leaks, background documents, extrapolation from other bilateral FTAs and the earlier defeated MAI and ACTA etc). We also have the parallel TISA and TTIP negotiations to consider as well as the just concluded NZ Korea FTA for specific guidance. We express our deep concern over significant parts of the TPPA. Our specific concerns include:

• The right to tighten the lax rules that have allowed foreign investors to control many New Zealand assets, natural resources and businesses is being signed away forever. The incursion of foreign ownership into NZ beyond New Zealand’s legislative or judicial control skews New Zealand’s economic policy space towards investors’ profit priorities above domestic necessities.

• An increase in foreign investment and reduction of controls over financial activity again skews domestic policy settings, despite the lessons from the finance company collapses and the global financial crisis. Foreign banks, insurance companies and money traders should not be given powers to challenge laws designed to provide a stable and fair financial regime that works for the society, rather than the finance industry.

• Foreign investors are being given access to exploit New Zealand mineral resources and fossil fuel reserves that will increase carbon dioxide levels when used. It is clear from the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change, only a tiny fraction of existing fossil fuels can be used. We must not allow New Zealand to be locked into contracts that commit us to the extraction of fossil fuels and the consequent environmental damage.

• The use of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process, which allows overseas companies to access unaccountable off shore tribunals. These arbitrate disputes with our government, without right of appeal if they believe that government policy has reduced, or will reduce, their investment returns, rather than pursuing any remedy in our national courts. This will make it problematic for government to protect our environment, promote public health and protect the nation’s interest, especially given the lack of any equally specific reciprocal right of the government to initiate a similar action against remiss foreign investors. This is a clear denial of equal justice and undermines our judicial system.

• The impact of the TPPA on granting of patents and the price Pharmac will have to pay for medicines. If intellectual property patents and data exclusivity rules are extended on pharmaceuticals, and the availability of affordable generic medicines is reduced, there will almost certainly be either an increase in the cost of many common medicines, a reduction in the availability of medicines or a corresponding loss of resource from other areas of the health sector to cover the increased costs of those medicines. Powerful pharmaceutical companies will also be given more leverage to influence Pharmac’s decisions.

• Reduced freedom of information under the TPPA with copyright laws written in a way that would restrict internet freedom, extend corporate monopolies over information, stifle innovation and criminalise online sharing.

• Copyright extensions can have a detrimental effect by increasing costs for users of information that should be in the public domain, including our libraries, researchers, and the blind.

• Loss of sovereignty. TPPA provisions can prevent New Zealand from using public interest legislation to protect our people and our environment where such legislation conflicts with the special rights granted to overseas investors.

• Failure to honour the Treaty of Waitangi. If TPPA provisions do not accept the Treaty of Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa – New Zealand, and instead privilege commercial and foreign interests, we may never be able to resolve Treaty claims in the best interests of tangata whenua.

The TPPA appears, in the absence of democratic oversight, to be an agreement which has the effect of increasing and entrenching the power and influence wielded by transnational corporations. Given that the corporate focus is on returns to shareholders without the social considerations that would ensure that our people’s best interests are protected, and that the TPPA will be binding on future governments, we believe that there must be a full and democratic consultation process on all the terms of the TPPA before any deals are made.

We note that the European Ombudsman has successfully called for greater transparency and opportunities for public consultation in the case of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) following concerns about the consequences of secret TTIP negotiations.

We want to safeguard New Zealand democracy and protect our ability to make our own decisions on matters concerning our resources, education, food, health, medicines and environment. We are deeply concerned that the process of negotiation with the other eleven nations involved in the TPPA will be concluded before there is a genuine opportunity for public and expert analysis and input to the decisions. We believe that the democratic process should play a central role in informing the content of binding agreements such as the TPPA.

We call on Minister Groser and the MFAT team to make the terms and conditions of the Trans Pacific Partnership immediately available for public debate.


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