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Opinion Polls Show PM Out Of Touch With Public on TPPA

19 December 2012

For immediate release

Opinion Polls Show PM Out Of Touch With Public Opinion on TPPA

Polling results on four core issues in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) show the government has seriously underestimated public concern, according to Professor Jane Kelsey who commissioned one of the Consumer Link polls.

“Earlier this month on TV3 Prime Minister John Key told the public to ignore criticism of the proposed TPPA. These polls show he is out of touch with popular opinion,” said Professor Kelsey.

The polling conducted by Consumer Link between 14th and 21st November and 4th to 10th December shows consistently high levels of opposition to
1) keeping the text secret until it is signed (65% opposed, 14% for);
2) allowing foreign investors to sue the government in offshore tribunals for compensation for new environmental laws (61% opposed, 9% for);
3) the New Zealand government’s failure to reject those special rights foreign investors to sue (62% opposed, 12% for); and
4) making trade-offs that would result in a significant rise in what it costs the government to supply medicines to thepublic (52% opposed, 18% for) when Australia has completely rejected the concept.

“Our polling is a warning shot across the bow for the Prime Minister. He cannot afford to be so cavalier about New Zealanders’ opposition to key aspects of the TPPA, which has the potential to become a significant election issue in 2014”, Professor Kelsey warned.

The informal timeframe for completing the negotiations is October 2013, when the political leaders from the eleven negotiating countries aim to reach a high level political deal at a summit alongside the APEC leaders’ meeting in Bali.

“If that timetable sticks, the National-led Cabinet would likely decide what trade offs it is prepared to make either before or after the May negotiating round in Peru – without New Zealanders having any say in the decisions”.

Professor Kelsey noted very mixed views among negotiators and informed commentators about whether the timetable is achievable, and fears that a summit chaired by President Obama could ride roughshod over the technical issues and serious domestic consequences simply to close the deal.

The Prime Minister would need to sell the outcome to the electorate in 2014 and convince the Parliament to make any necessary changes to legislation during an election year.

Labour would also come under pressure, knowing it could not implement many of its election policies if National had agreed to US demands for the TPPA. It would need support in a coalition from the Greens, New Zealand First and Mana, who areopposed to the deal.

“No-one, especially the Prime Minister, should under-estimate the potential for the TPPA to become a hot political issue unless and until people’s concerns are addressed”, warned Professor Kelsey.
Contact:Jane Kelsey 021765055


Public Opinion on TPP Issues

New Zealand is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with ten other countries called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Consumer Link posed four questions concerning the TPP and the following sets out the results.

Secrecy and the TPP Text
Almost two out of three New Zealanders believe the contents of the latest and biggest free trade agreement should be made public before the negotiations are completed and any deal issigned. Of those that have an opinion, four times as many favour advance publication of the TPP text. The poll shows 65% of New Zealanders think the Government should make the contents of the agreement public before the negotiations are completed and the agreement is signed, 14% do not mind if this does not happen, and 21% have no opinion. Comment by Jane Kelsey is here.

Consumer Link conducted the poll from November 14th to 21st over a sample of 500 people and the margin of error was 3.3%. The table below sets out the full question and response rates.

Q The New Zealand Government is negotiating a free trade and investment agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 10 other countries on the Asia-Pacific rim, including the United States. The intention is that contents of this agreement will not be made public until the negotiations are concluded and the agreement is signed, making it almost impossible to reopen. Which one of the following statements best describes your attitude toward this? Score
01 I don't mind the contents of the agreement not being made public before the negotiations are completed and the agreement is signed 14%
02 I think the New Zealand Government should make the contents of the agreement public before the negotiations are completed and the agreement is signed65%
03 I have no opinion on this matter 21.6%21%

Environmental Protection and the TPP
A clear majority of New Zealanders reject the concept of foreign investors having any ability to sue the government offshore if is sets stronger environmental standards. 61% of those surveyed believe that New Zealand should not sign the TPP agreement if it contains any clauses that allow foreign investors to sue the government in an offshore tribunal over new laws intended to protect the environment. Of those that have an opinion, six times as many favour standing aside from any deal that would impose these terms, versus those that would still sign up. The poll indicates that just 9% of New Zealanders think securing this free trade agreement is important even if it could allow foreign investors to take such legal action against the government, while 30% have no opinion. Comment by the Sustainability Council is here.

Consumer Link conducted the poll from November 14th to 21st over a sample of 500 people and the margin of error was 3.3%. The table below sets out the full question and response rates.

Q. The New Zealand Government is negotiating a free trade and investment agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 10 other countries on the Asia-Pacific rim, including the United States. This agreement may contain clauses that allow foreign investors to claim compensation through offshore tribunals if the government makes new laws intended to protect the environment. Which one of the following best describes your attitude towards this?Score
01 Securing this free trade agreement is important, even if it could allow foreign investors to take such legal action against the government9%
02 If the agreement contains any clauses that allow foreign investors to sue the government in an offshore tribunal over new laws intended to protect the environment, then New Zealand should not sign it61%
03 I have no opinion on this matter30%


Investor Rights to Sue the Government:
Two thirds of New Zealanders are wary of a Trans Pacific Partnership that has rules allowing corporations to sue governments. Respondents were asked whether they would support New Zealand signing trade and investment treaties that would allow the government to be sued by foreign investors in private offshore tribunals. 62% said New Zealand should reject treaties with these clauses, and just 12% said we should signthem, while 26% were unsure. Comment by First Union is here, and a TV3 news item is here.

Consumer Link conducted the poll from December 4th to 10th over a sample of 500 people and the margin of error was 3.3%. Earlier data based on a 440 sample and unweighted data produced almost identical data. The table below sets out the full question and response rates.

Q. New Zealand is currently negotiating a free trade and investment treaty with ten other countries called the Trans Pacific Partnership. As part of the negotiations, there is a proposal to allow foreign investors to sue governments in private offshore tribunals if government actions threaten their future profits. The US advocates it while Australia says it would not sign a deal with this in it. Which one of the following statements do you most agree with:Score
01 New Zealand should reject trade and investment treaties that would allow the government to be sued by foreign investors in private offshore tribunals62%
02 New Zealand should accept terms that would allow investors to sue the government in this way if that is what is required to get a Trans Pacific Partnership deal.12%
03 No opinion / Can’t choose26%


Health Costs and the TPP
A majority of New Zealanders would reject a trade agreement that would increase the cost of medicines and enable foreign investors to sue the government if it makes laws that affect their trade investments. Of those surveyed, 52 percent said New Zealand should not sign the TPP agreement if it contains clauses that would mean the government had to pay more for medicines or allowed foreign investors to sue the government over new laws that, for example, put protecting the environment before trade. Just 18 percent thought New Zealand should still sign the agreement, and 30% had no opinion. Comment by the Public Health Association is here.

Consumer Link conducted the poll from December 4th to 10th over a sample of 500 people and the margin of error was 3.3%. The table below sets out the full question and response rates.

Q. New Zealand is currently negotiating a free trade and investment treaty with the United States and nine other countries called the Trans Pacific Partnership. The Government expects the agreement will lead to economic benefits through freer trade with other countries, but past free trade agreements involving the US indicate that it may also contain clauses that would result in a significant rise in what it costs the government to supply prescription medicines to the public.
Some people say that the Government should not accept clauses that would significantly increase medical costs because those and other costs would outweigh the benefits that might come from the investment treaty, while others say the economic gains will outweigh increased medical costs. Which of the following statements do you most agree with:
Score
01 New Zealand should rule out now any treaty terms that would result in a significant rise in what it costs the government to supply medicines to the public.52%
02 Securing this free trade deal is important, even if it would result in a significant rise in the cost to the government for medicines18%
03 I have no opinion on this matter30%

ENDS

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