Yesterday an unfortunate thing happened. New Zealand Parliament accepted the third reading of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership Amendment Bill. It was passed through Parliament with only the 8 Green Members of Parliament voting against it. This now makes the passage into law of the C.P.T.P.P., which succeeded the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement a virtual certainty.
I opposed this when it was the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (T.P.P.A.). I oppose this now when it is the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (why negotiators feel the need to come up with such long, convoluted names is beyond me).
I opposed this when it was first conceived because there were – among other things – the following:
- The possibility that New Zealanders would be made to pay more for medication from Pharmac, whose ability to negotiate good deals for New Zealand would be significantly reduced
- The possibility that Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses would be inserted – and I think probably have snuck in despite the opposition that has been raised – which would potentially expose New Zealand to court action from multinationals for enacting laws that by their judgement somehow affect their ability (true or not) to make a profit
- That New Zealand’s numerous international commitments, for which we earn much credit on the international stage, and our ability to uphold them would be undermined
I oppose this now for several reasons, not least because to the best of my knowledge and contrary to the statements from New Zealand First, Labour, National and A.C.T., the C.P.T.P.P. still has the contentious clauses that made it essential to resist in the first place. This is based on having searched through the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement Amendment Act 2016 and the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership Amendment Act 2018. During that search I was looking for provisions specifically protecting the Treaty of Waitangi, eliminating Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses.
I found that much effort was given to provisions relating to copy right, performance.
There are other reasons why New Zealand has made a mistake passing this legislation into law:
- Japan and the United States are highly protectionist, and to a lesser extent South Korea – for significant gains to be made there has to be changes in their domestic legislation and posturing around this
- Philip Morris attempted to sue the Australian Government over tobacco advertizing; a mining company tried to sue Costa Rica over its attempts to protect its environment – whilst Philip Morris lost, there is a risk that despite assurances to the contrary such moves might be made by a multinational against New Zealand
- I cannot agree with the claims that the Treaty of Waitangi is not impacted unless there are explicit clauses saying so in the legislation – I did not see anything of that nature
All trade agreements that go before Parliament should not become law unless they have the following guarantees:
- That a review clause becomes active after 10 years, at which point a select committee reviews the legislation and enacts any recommendations
- That its continuance can be voted on after 20 years, with a sun set clause tripping if the result is NO
A trade agreement is only as good as the people who negotiated it at the time. Like laws they can become dated or be found to be defective. No responsible Parliament or elected Government should ignore defective legislation or trade agreements.