Fundamental Flaws in the Trans Pacific Partnership.
This lovely article is written by my friend and colleague Dr Jenny Olsen. Feel free to circulate it as widely as possible
A month ago, Wikileaks published the Investment Chapter from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. This contains one of the most controversial parts of the TPPA, the Investor State Dispute Settlement process, or ISDS. It is very worrying that despite huge public protest against the TPPA, with 10,000 people across 23 New Zealand centres taking to the streets on March 7th, Trade Minister Tim Groser still sees no reason to be more transparent about the secret TPPA negotiations. Professor Jane Kelsey says that the leaked text shows that the negotiators have completely failed to protect the interests of New Zealanders.
Under ISDS provisions, investors have the ability to sue governments if they do anything that reduces the returns on their investments. A current example close to home is Philip Morris, the tobacco company, suing the Australian government for loss of profit incurred by the public health legislation putting cigarettes into plain packaging. Philip Morris are doing this under ISDS provisions in a trade agreement that Australia has with Hong Kong. Philip Morris are also suing Uruguay for increasing the size of the health warnings on cigarette packs.
There are currently hundreds of ISDS cases under dispute worldwide and they include governments saying no to nuclear power and public concern about pollution of the water supply. In the recent case of Bilcon vs Canada, an environmental panel had declined Bilcon’s investment in a quarry and marine terminal which would damage a unique marine environment. In a split decisions, the tribunal found for Bilcon, who are claiming $300 million in damages. The dissenting arbiter said that this decision will create a ‘chilling’ effect on environmental legislation in Canada and elsewhere. We can also see this chilling effect on our government’s support for health measures. Despite the fact that there has already been a dramatic reduction in smoking commencement by youth in Australia since the introduction of plain packaging, our government has placed NZ’s move to plain packaging on hold pending the outcome of the ISDS case.
We should not have to rely on Wikileaks to find out what our government is deciding on our behalf. As an international treaty, the TPPA won’t go through Parliament, and it will be binding on future governments. New Zealanders want to know what is in the TPPA before it is signed, not afterwards, when we won’t be able to do anything about it.
TPP Action Dunedin have produced an Open Letter opposing the secrecy of the TPPA. The Letter urges Trade Minister Tim Groser and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to release the negotiating texts and end the secrecy around the contents of the TPPA. It notes that the European Ombudsman has successfully called for greater transparency and opportunities for public consultation in the case of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the European version of the TPPA, following concerns about the consequences of secret TTIP negotiations.
The Letter outlines a number of other issues of concern and concludes “The TPPA appears, in the absence of democratic oversight, to be an agreement which has the effect of increasing and entrenching the power and influence wielded by transnational corporations.
We want to safeguard New Zealand democracy and protect our ability to make our own decisions on matters concerning our resources, education, food, health, medicines and environment. We are deeply concerned that the process of negotiation with the other eleven nations involved in the TPPA will be concluded before there is a genuine opportunity for public and expert analysis and input to the decisions. We believe that the democratic process should play a central role in informing the content of binding agreements such as the TPPA.
We call on Minister Groser and the MFAT team to make the terms and conditions of the Trans Pacific Partnership immediately available for public debate.”
So far, the Letter has been endorsed by Unions Otago, the Otago Southland Branch of the Public Health Association of NZ, Tauranga and WBOP Grey Power and by Mike Treen, National Director of Unite Union. It has been signed by Professors Sir Alan Mark, Kevin Clements, Rev Dr Peter Matheson, Bob Lloyd, Richard Jackson and Jocelyn Harris, and Dr Marcelle Dawson, from the University of Otago; Rev Dr Kerry Enwright, Dr Liz Craig and Reverend Anne Thomson from Dunedin; Professors Jeff Sluka and Geoffrey Jameson from Massey University and Dr Gill Caradoc-Davies, retired Clinical Head of Psychiatric Services, Dunedin. It has also been signed by writers Dr Philip Temple, Diane Brown and Brian Turner and documentary film maker Bryan Bruce.
TPP Action thanks the people above for their support and expects further signatories to be added in the coming weeks. If you would like to read the complete Open Letter, please contact Jen Olsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.