Source: Professor Jane Kelsey.[caption id="attachment_1844" align="alignleft" width="200"] Professor Jane Kelsey.[/caption]
An open letter signed by current and former political leaders from five countries participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement has called for effective moves to protect the authority of lawmakers from the US process of ‘certification’ (available at tppnocertification.org).
From New Zealand, the letter was endorsed by party leaders Andrew Little (Labour), Winston Peters (NZ First), Russel Norman and Metiria Turei (Greens), Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox (Maori Party), as well as former Speaker Margaret Wilson and Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons.
Other prominent signatories include a former Japanese Prime Minister and other former ministers, members of the Malaysian caucus on the TPPA, Canadian opposition leaders, and Australian MPs with special responsibilities involving TPPA.
‘All eyes have been focused on the US Congress as it debates Fast Tracking the TPPA, which would stop Congress effectively rewriting any “final’” deal. But certification is equally or even more problematic’, according to Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey.
‘The US President can refuse to bring the TPPA into force in relation to New Zealand – certify our compliance – unless we have changed our laws, policies and practices to what the US claims we have to do under the agreement, even if it is not in the actual text’.
The legislators’ letter was sent to Trade Ministers on Tuesday. It calls on them to ensure that any final deal effectively protects the constitutional right of countries to determine exclusively whether they have taken all the measures necessary to comply, and to resist presures from any other country to interfere with the legislative process.
The website tppnocertification.org documents how the US has used the certification process in the past to intrude deeply on other countries’ sovereignty, pre-vetting laws before they are introduced and even writing the other country’s laws for them.
In 2004, Australia’s Parliament had to rush through controversial new copyright laws without which the US refused to bring the Australia-US FTA into force. The Senate select committee had to call for and hear submissions on the new Bill and report back within 24 hours. (http://tppnocertification.org/australias-experience/).
‘I understand there have been some discussions at the TPPA negotiating table on how to neutralise certification. This is now urgent as the talks reach the supposed “end game”’, Kelsey said.
‘Trade Minister Groser and his colleagues need to heed this call from their own senior lawmakers when they meet on 26 May, and secure effective commitments from the US not to use certification that way again’.
‘The problem’, Professor Kelsey pointed out, ‘is that the US can veto any such language in the deal itself, and the Fast Track bill seeks to strengthen Congress’s role in the certification process.’