Source: Professor Jane Kelsey.
‘When the minister of trade feels it necessary to publicly attack critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement with such vitriol, it shows our arguments are really hitting home’, said University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey in response to a speech today by Trade Minister Tim Groser to the US NZ Council.
‘It is especially insulting to those health professionals, lawyers, parliamentarians, local government politicians, and Maori leaders, as well as communities all around the country who have expressed grave concerns about part or all of the TPPA,’ Professor Kelsey noted.
‘It would be much more constructive for the Minister to engage with their genuine concerns’.
Professor Kelsey observed that the minister’s bottom line of comprehensive liberalisation on all agricultural products, phased in over time, has been reduced to requiring that dairy is not excluded from the deal.
‘The Minister clearly knows he will have very little, if anything, to show in terms of market access for dairy. That is already being rationalised as the first steps to a future bounty, and that New Zealand can’t afford not to be at the table’.‘We need to be able to assess for ourselves whether we can actually afford to be at the table. The Australian Productivity Commission last week called for transparency and a genuinely independent cost benefit analysis before their government signs up to any TPPA deal. We need the same’.
Professor Kelsey said she has no doubt that some of the worst aspects of previously leaked texts have been mitigated. ‘That is to be expected, both because governments put their most extreme positions on the table and then claim they have compromised, and because of the severe backlash against leaked proposals from the many communities who would be affected.’
‘It is disingenuous for the Minister to dismiss concerns about the TPPA. We know from the recently leaked investment chapter and the so-called transparency annex on the activities of agencies like Pharmac that there will be serious consequences. They may not be immediate, but they will be very real’.
New Zealanders also have the right to know the options the Minister will have to choose between and the government’s position to date on those matters in the negotiations.
One outstanding issue that will have major impacts on New Zealand’s health budget and access to affordable medicines is the period of data exclusivity for biologics medicines.
Equally, US demands that New Zealand ratifies the UPOV 1991 Convention* is part of the Waitangi tribunal claim lodged just last week. Maori are entitled to know where the government stands.
‘To claim this would disclose New Zealand’s negotiating position is sheer nonsense. The other parties know what our government has argued. Yet the secrecy agreement they have signed means New Zealanders will not have that information for at least another four years.’
* International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants