New Zealand Parliament select committee report on TPPA shows inquiry needed into treaty-making process

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University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey has labeled a New Zealand Parliament select committee report on the Trans Pacific Partnership as “pathetic” and a “travesty of democracy”.

She said the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement has impacted on New Zealand’s democratic process and an abuse of the legislative process has been in evidence “from day one”. 

According to Professor Kelsey the abuse has continued with a “pathetic report released by the Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade committee yesterday”.

“Other countries are confronting the democratic deficit surrounding such negotiations and reviewing how governments can better respond to people’s legitimate concerns. In New Zealand, there has been an unprecedented groundswell of criticism of the TPPA from health professionals and economists, from Maori, unions and the tech industry. The government has treated them all with contempt,” she said.

Professor Kelsey described the select committee process as ‘a total farce’. The report was written while submissions were still being heard, after the government fast forwarded the report date by three weeks. The reasons were never explained, but were likely intended to pressure the Waitangi Tribunal in writing their report on the TPPA, which is now scheduled for release later today.

Kelsey said the government majority on the committee ‘might as well have not bothered attending the hearings. Their contribution is a truncated version of MFAT’s patsy National Interest Analysis tabled in Parliament and which forms the bulk of the report.’

All the opposition parties criticised the secrecy of negotiations and truncated committee process.

Labour has said they will vote against ratifying the TPPA ‘as it stands’. But their minority report addresses only two narrow issues: foreclosing the right to ban foreign purchasers of residential housing and the economic modelling. Anything that was critical of previous agreements that Labour negotiated was ignored, including investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), despite clear evidence that is highly problematic.

Both the Greens and New Zealand First go deeper, with the Greens proposing some interesting ideas about processes for future agreements.

But Professor Kelsey insists that ‘ad hoc changes are not enough. We desperately need an independent inquiry into the treaty-making process that is freed from the overpowering influence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’.

‘”This is urgent. The government is currently engaged in three other major negotiations that are being conducted under the same shroud of secrecy and have potentially far-reaching consequences – including a round of negotiations for the 16-country Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in mid-June in Auckland for which no information is about engagement is yet available,” Professor Kelsey said.

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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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