Farce of TPPA secrecy must end, Groser must stop misleading statements – Kelsey

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New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser is currently taking part, in his capacity of Climate Change Minister, in the COP21 climate change conference being hosted in Paris.

Source: Professor Jane Kelsey & New Zealand Government.

‘The secrecy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement has become farcical’, says University of Auckland Professor Jane Kelsey. ‘Trade Minister Tim Groser says we just have to trust what he’s telling us. In today’s interview with TVNZ’s The Nation he showed why we cannot.’

Minister Groser gave the tobacco exception to investor-state dispute settlement as an example of why Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations had to be kept secret. 

“… to give you an example – practical example – one of the things we’re very pleased about, and it only came together at the last minute, is this whole exception for tobacco control measures from this very controversial ISDS, this disputes settlement form. I can almost guarantee you that if we had made that public, we would not have got it. Big Tobacco in the United States has got hundreds of millions of dollars to campaign. If they had known what was at stake, for sure they would have gone in to senators and to congress offices. I don’t think Froman would have been allowed to do that.”

‘The claim is utter nonsense’, according to Professor Kelsey. 

The US’s limited exception to investor-state dispute settlement is a weak alternative to the comprehensive carveout for tobacco that Malaysia had proposed. The USTR had expected to table it earlier, but put off formally doing so until the last minute.

‘The decision to delay its formal presentation was highly political, but it had nothing to do with the US not showing its hand to the lobbyists as the Minister claims’, Professor Kelsey observed. ‘They already knew exactly what was going on.’ 

The following sample of reports show the US proposal has been known publicly for months and was the subject of intense discussions between the Obama administration and both the US tobacco industry and tobacco control groups:

·       Mitch McConnell Fights For Tobacco Interests In Trans-Pacific Trade Deal (8 September 2015) (http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnbrinkley/2015/09/08/with-friends-like-mitch-mcconnell/

·       Could Tobacco Carveout Kill TPP? (2 September 2015): [Reuters reported the administration had been considering allowing tobacco to be carved out of the investor-state dispute settlement, which, among other things, would give tobacco companies little protection against stiff regulation by trade partners, like Australia’s ban on branded cigarette packs.]

·       http://blogs.rollcall.com/wgdb/could-tobacco-carveout-kill-tpp/

·       Will Trans-Pacific trade deal go up in smoke over anti-tobacco proposal?, 12 August 2015, http://www.politico.com/story/2015/08/will-trans-pacific-trade-deal-go-up-in-smoke-over-anti-tobacco-proposal-121272.html

·       USTR quietly pushing tobacco carve-out in TPP endgame (11 August 2015) http://foodandagpolicy.org/news/story/ustr-quietly-pushing-tobacco-carve-out-tpp-endgame-politico-pro

·       Tobacco Opponents, Advocates Fight For USTR’s Favor On TPP Carveout (6 August 2015) Inside US Trade.

‘Nor will the supposed “secrecy” protect the deal from political pressure. Pro-tobacco members of Congress have further opportunities to oppose the exception as the TPPA moves through the US political process, and are already threatening to do so’, according to Professor Kelsey.

‘Significantly  the rationale the Minister gave for keeping the details secret is to protect the deal from those who might want to influence the outcome, not the formal explanations he has given about the need to protect negotiating positions from premature disclosure to other parties’.

‘The Minister has been caught out on something we do have the evidence about. If he is spinning this example, we should expect he is spinning lots of other aspects of the deal that we can’t yet disprove. He should publish the text now or stop peddling his version until the text does become available.’

On October 7, the New Zealand Government stated the:  (ref. LiveNews.co.nz)

TPP is a very positive agreement for New Zealand. It further improves access to international markets, which supports our exporters to grow and create new jobs, and diversify their businesses overseas.

TPP means:

  • 800 million potential customers for New Zealand goods and services.
  • NZ’s economy is estimated to benefit by at least $2.7 billion a year by 2030.
  • It will save $259 million a year in tariffs for New Zealand exporters.
  • It will support more jobs and higher incomes, and allow New Zealand exporters to sell more products and services to the world.
  • $28 billion of New Zealand goods and services were exported to TPP countries last year – that’s around 40 per cent of New Zealand’s overall exports.
  • Tariffs will be eliminated on 93 per cent of New Zealand’s exports to the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico and Peru.

Not being in TPP would put the New Zealand economy and our businesses at a competitive disadvantage compared to other countries.

TPP, like any free trade agreement, will go through New Zealand’s Parliamentary processes and is expected to come into force within two years.

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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