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TPPA ministerial fails – time for NZ Govt. to cut losses

1 August 2015

TPPA ministerial fails – time for Key and Groser to cut their losses

‘The “final” ministerial meeting on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) in Maui has failed. Not opting to stay another day shows the gridlock is serious and potentially intractable’, according to University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey.

‘Everyone is blaming each other in Maui’, Kelsey said. ‘But the underlying reason for the gridlock is the domestic opposition in almost all the TPPA countries.’

‘People simply don’t believe a deal that raises the price of medicines and handcuffs the right of governments to regulate is in their national interests’.

‘Despite erecting a shroud of secrecy around the negotiations, politicians know they can’t sign a final deal that they can’t sell at home.’

Professor Kelsey notes that Minister Groser’s sales job got much harder this week.

After years of denial, he and the Prime Minister have now confessed that medicines will indeed cost more, that the TPPA will prevent tighter restrictions foreign investments, and that foreign investors might indeed sue New Zealand and win under the TPPA.

‘Those confessions raised the political price of the TPPA and meant the Minister couldn’t accept a cosmetic deal. Despite downgrading his ambitions from the initial “full liberalisation” to something “commercially meaningful” for dairy, even that was not achievable.’

Time has now almost run out.The US Fast Track law sets out a complicated process the US must follow. US consumer organisation Public Citizen calculates the absolute minimum amount of time is about 3 months.[1]

Under the more likely timeframe, if negotiations do not conclude until September the earliest Congress would vote on the TPP is January 2016, when the path to passage will be more politically fraught. That is US election year. The last thing Hilary Clinton, other Democrats and many Republicans want is a vote on a politically toxic deal mid-campaign.

‘Hopefully the groundswell of media coverage and discussion in New Zealand this week, along with a stronger position from Labour and the Waitangi Tribunal claim, have created enough pressure on the government to cut its losses and walk away’, Kelsey said.

‘At the very least, before the negotiations resume we need to see the text and the options clearly laid out, and have an independent and comprehensive cost benefit analysis that can be debated in an open and democratic way’.

‘I and others will seek to advance that openness with the judicial review proceedings of the Minister’s refusal to release documents under the Official Information Act, to be filed early next week’.

[1] http://www.citizen.org/documents/TPP-vote-calendar.pdf

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