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Will McClay Pre-Empt Labour on Foreign-Owned Property?

Will Trade Minister McClay pre-empt Labour’s policy on foreign-owned residential property?

The announcement by Labour leader Jacinda Ardern that a Labour government would move in the first 100 days to restrict foreign ownership of residential property raises the stakes for this month’s proposed meeting in Japan of eleven remaining countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA-11), says Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey.

No date has yet been announced for the meeting at which each country is meant to table its conclusive list of provisions it wants suspended, so a political deal can be announced at APEC in November.

New Zealand has apparently insisted that countries cannot revise their commitments on the contentious investment provisions in the agreement. In the jargon, that means reopening their so-called ‘market access’ schedules, which includes the schedules of measures each country wants to keep that don’t conform to the agreement’s rules for investment (‘non-conforming measures’). That is where it has committed New Zealand never to introduce the kind of restrictions on foreign ownership of residential property that Labour has proposed.

National will be reluctant to make the relatively minor adjustment sought by the Labour Party because that could open the way for other countries to revisit their own schedules.

If the TPP-11 meeting in Japan is before the election, Professor Kelsey says it will be interesting to see what National does: ‘will it ask for this exclusion, opening up the lists of commitments and exclusions to the investment and services provisions to changes by other countries as well, or will it deny a new incoming Government the right to carry out its election pledge?’

‘Deliberately closing the door on a future government’s policy options so close to an election would be constitutionally improper’, Professor Kelsey said.

‘Trade Minister Todd McClay needs to be up front about what he is saying on our behalf in the TPPA-11 negotiations, and assure New Zealanders that the government won’t be tabling any firm positions before the election’.


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