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Human Rights Experts identify human rights risks

UN Human Rights Experts identify human rights risks and urge evaluation to precede negotiations

24 June 2015 New Zealand Time

Geneva - After ten United Nations Rapporteurs said that the TPPA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership could potentially harm human rights, prominent human rights voices in TPPA countries sounded the alarm on Human Rights implications. These voices include a former Malaysian Human Rights Commissioner, Oxfam America, The Council of Canadians (Canada), Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (Australia), Human Rights Now (Japan), Derechos Digitales (Chile), International Action for the Health of Peru, The Project of Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights, the Methodist Church, Aoteaora New Zealand.

On June 2nd, 10 United Nations human rights experts expressed concern both about the TPPA’s potential adverse impact on human rights. They recommended that human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) should be done for the TPP before the negotiations go any further.

They criticized the extreme secrecy around the talks and ISDS, the Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions which allow foreign corporations to sue countries over laws and policies which curtail their profit on investments. The rapporteurs said that this would have a chilling effect on countries’ ability to enact laws to protect environmental and social standards.[1]

They also drew attention to the potential detrimental impact these treaties and agreements may have on human rights as enshrined in legally binding instruments, whether civil, cultural, economic, political or social. They noted impacts on poverty, environment and Indigenous Peoples saying, “Our concerns relate to the rights to life, food, water and sanitation, health, housing, education, science and culture, improved labour standards, an independent judiciary, a clean environment.”

The US Congress is continuing to seek fast track authority for the TPPA to accelerate the adoption by the U.S. Congress. This would stifle seeking precautionary information such as the impact assessment of Human Rights.

The TPPA , is an all-encompassing free trade agreement currently being negotiated between 12 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Social, environmental, and labour regulations, privacy, medicine costs, public services, financial regulation, farming are some of the issues affected by this agreement.

Some of the comments:

President of the Methodist Church, Aotearoa New Zealand

The TPP has far reaching consequences now and in time to come. There is a widespread public call for Investor States Disputes provisions to be removed because these can over-ride the public good responsibilities of states. Impacts of these provisions may aggravate poverty and protections for workers, limit environmental safeguards and over-ride indigenous People’s rights. A precautionary approach needs to include a Human Rights inquiry and assurance of the ability of states to ensure climate commitments are unencumbered by such agreements such as the TPP. These are priorities for the church.

President Tovia Aumua, Methodist Church, Te Hāhi Weteriana, Aotearoa New Zealand.

Mr.Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah, a former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia Malaysia (SUHAKAM)[2]) and Deputy Secretary General of the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia, PROHAM)[3] said that ‘in light of the concerns expressed and recommendations by the ten United Nations human rights experts, SUHAKAM must do a human rights impact assessment on the TPPA before any further TPPA negotiations are held or decisions are made on the TPPA. The Malaysian government must provide sufficient funding to SUHAKAM to conduct such a human rights impact assessment.’

Ms. Kazuko Ito, the Secretary General of Japan based Human Rights Now ( said that “the concern raised by the UN experts deserves utmost consideration on the table of TPPA negotiation. It is our grave concern that negotiation process totally excludes communities which may be affected, and denies rights to information and participation. Further we are concerned that wide range of human rights protection in Japan will be at stake as a result of the negotiation, especially in relation to the ISDS chapters. Japan should make all necessary effort to prevent any deterioration of human rights situation for people potentially affected by TPPA.”

“Javier Llamoza, from Acción Internacional para la Salud de Perú (International Action for the Health of Peru), said that the TPP is a major new obstacle to Peru’s ability to meet the need for treatment to which all people are entitled, and to improve the care of the public health system, which primarily serves the poor and extremely poor. The human right to health is seriously threatened by this agreement. "

‘The UN rapporteurs’ statement underlined the concerns of Australian community organisations that the TPP could have a negative impact on many areas of human rights. The TPP text should be released now to enable a full Human Rights Impact Assessment of the TPP,’ said Dr Patricia Ranald Coordinator of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET).

‘Human rights are the fundamental basis for all societies. It is essential that we know the true human cost of such agreements before we even consider them. Considering the scope and power of the TPP, and how most of have no access to the details, it is definitely concerning that governments don’t stop and consider what they are getting into. Another round of negotiations is ludicrous in this context.’

--- Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians, Canada

‘If democracy is really about the active participation of the citizens in the political decisions and the protection of their basic human rights, then the TPP is one of the greatest treats to democracy right now. And not just because it is decided behind people’s backs, but because it sets in stone the rules about how our public decisions in critical sectors of our space will be made.’

--- Claudio Ruiz, Derechos Digitales

‘In the discussion on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and labor rights it is fundamental that the signing states retake the concept of “decent work”, from the International Labour Organisation, as a way to ratify their obligation to guarantee the respect of labor rights (decent income, safe working conditions, social security, liberty to free association, among the most important). For Mexico, the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which is the closest benchmark of what may occur with the implementation of the TPP, led to the development and implementation of various structural reforms that have meant the loss of fundamental human rights such as: the right to labor, the right to unionize, the right to have access to decent income, the right to just working conditions, and the right to justice.

The signing of these commercial agreements, in which transnational corporations play a determining role, shall, as a consequence, cause the implementation of policies, translated into structural reforms, which shall increase violations against these rights and lead to the government’s failure to fulfill its principle obligations: security and the respect and guarantee of human rights.’


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