Government blocks public hearing on trade agreement

Posted By TEU on Jul 28, 2011 |

The government has blocked a request for a select committee hearing on the implications of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

A parliamentary petition signed on behalf of 13 organisations that collectively represent hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders made the request to the select committee.

The groups include the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and individual unions including TEU, as well as Oxfam, the NZ Public Health Association and the NZ Society of Authors.

TEU has regularly expressed concern that the proposed trade agreement could give private US tertiary education companies the right to sue New Zealanders over tertiary education quality assurance measures, public funding or other restrictions that they did not like.

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.

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.”

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