The National-led government has blocked a request for a select committee hearing on the implications of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
The groups include the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and individual unions, Oxfam, the NZ Public Health Association, NZ Society of Authors, ICT group NZ Rise, and the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa.
The Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade select committee only agreed that the first signatory, NZCTU President Helen Kelly, could present additional written information.
‘This hearing would have been an opportunity for those who support the agreement to make their case and for those with concerns to be heard before the negotiations proceed any further’ said Robert Reid, who signed the petition on behalf of the National Distribution Union.
‘Once again our members and the people of New Zealand are being denied any say into a trade agreement that is being negotiated in their name’.
‘We wanted to explain to the select committee why we oppose the TPPA. Free trade brings no benefits to our members and this one will strengthen the hands of foreign investors at the expense of New Zealand manufacturing and services firms.’
Robert Reid urged the government to refocus its priorities and develop a real economic strategy to address the economic stagnation and growing jobs crisis.
NZCTU President Helen Kelly expressed concern that the select committee’s action ‘reinforces widespread criticism that the government is not allowing this hugely important agreement to informed public scrutiny before the deal is signed and sealed.’
‘We have many concerns about the effects of the proposed agreement, including on the cost of health care and public health such as tobacco control, development of well paid jobs through use of government buying power to favour local firms, and the powers it gives to overseas investors to sue the government’.
New Zealand Society of Authors President Tony Simpson recalled that ‘fifteen years ago an attempt was made to introduce the Multilateral Agreement on Investment but this was withdrawn following widespread international condemnation. Now, 15 years down the track the proponents of the MAI are having a second go on a piecemeal and regional basis through the TPPA. It is no more acceptable this time around’.
Tony Simpson warned that ‘If we accede to this we will be giving up the autonomy and integrity of our economy, our society and our culture to no discernible immediate or longer term advantage’. ‘Why would we do such a thing? We wouldn’t, which is why those pursuing it within our government have largely conducted their work in secret’.