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Secret trade deal raises asset sale issues

Apr 17th, 2012 | By | Category: Latest News, News

SECRET trade negotiations and the asset sales programme threaten to affect every New Zealander’s daily life, say activists fighting both government initiatives.

The TPPA stands for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a “free trade” agreement under secret negotiation between New Zealand and eight countries, including the U.S.

John Maynard, who is leading People’s Power Ohariu’s fight against the asset sales, has experienced first-hand the public’s reaction to the details of the trade negotiations and asset sales.

Residents of Ohariu expressed shock at a recent public meeting when the details of the agreement were outlined by Dr Bill Rosenberg, pictured above, a policy director and economist at the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions.

“One of the women sitting in the meeting, she was saying ‘people have to know about this. Why don’t people know about this?”

The issue is particularly concerning to many residents because of the impact it would have on New Zealand’s independence if state asset sales go ahead, which is why the Ohariu group intends being part of the hikoi which arrives in Wellington on May 3.

Under the TPPA, overseas investors would have the ability to sue the New Zealand Government for law changes which affect the profitability of their assets, says Professor Jane Kelsey, from Auckland University law faculty.

“There are very serious issues in terms of sovereignty and democracy involved here,” says Professor Kelsey, who has followed the development of the TPPA closely.

“The investors themselves can bring the case directly against the host government, seeking damages for the loss to their investment.”

This would include the loss to the value of their investment based on anticipated future profits.

The TPPA would also allow foreign investors to influence the law-making process, says Dr Rosenberg.

“It certainly will allow greater corporate influence and access to the drafting of a whole range of government rules, whether it’s statutes, regulations, or administrative procedures.

“It may also make transparency provisions that will require companies to be consulted over changes.”

The impact on New Zealand’s economy will be severe, as rules surrounding state assets will be forced to act solely in accordance with commercial considerations, says Dr Rosenberg.

“They couldn’t favour local suppliers, or give incentives for sustainable energy.”

The lack of transparency around the TPPA is a major concern, with many key details of the agreement kept secret, says Professor Kelsey.

“The text will not be released until the deal is signed.

“All the background documents and draft texts that tell us what went on will remain secret for four years beyond when the agreement itself is concluded.”

New Zealand is further compromised by the fact that all future negotiations will be held in the USA, says Professor Kelsey.

“That not only means that the US sets the agenda, but it means that US corporate interests will have a much more significant influence over the lobbying processes, and interests in other countries will have much less.”

The TPPA agreement also concerns a number of other areas, including intellectual property, health policies, and copyright.


Peter Dunne not interested in speculation

People’s Power Ohariu is focused on discussing the consequences the TPPA will have on asset sales with Ohariu MP Peter Dunne.

The group’s spokesperson John Maynard says Mr Dunne is  in favour of the sales, giving the Government a 61-60 majority for the partial privatization of four state-owned power companies.

In an email to Mr Maynard, Mr Dunne said discussing the implications of the agreement is a waste of time.

“The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations have not yet been concluded, let alone any agreement having been confirmed by the New Zealand Government,” he said in the email.

“Until and unless that happens it is utterly premature to speculate about the import of any of its yet to be finalised provisions, and I am not going to waste yours and my time doing so.”

When contacted by NewsWire, Mr Dunne declined to comment.

Mr Maynard says people can seek more information on the People’s Power Ohariu campaign can email him on

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  1. I didn’t realise asset sales would have such an impact. They need to be stopped before it’s too late.

    Looking forward to hearing more about this!

  2. Ghastly stuff. We should know better than to paddle all the way up the proverbial creek.

  3. I am indeed sorry to learn that Mr Dunne treats members of his own constituency as “a waste of time”. This news is of great interest and I hope the article will be spread as widely as possible.Very many people will not be acquainted with all of these facts.
    Dr Terry Creagh

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