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Council supports TPPA, but with firm conditions

March 7th, 2014
[TDC press release]

The Tasman District Council has conditionally agreed to support the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations.

The conditional resolution comes after a previous resolution and public representations to the Council last year. The decision follows a similar path to one taken taken by the Auckland and Nelson Councils.

"In supporting the ongoing TPPA negotiations we identified 13 clauses", said Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne, "the majority of which are focused on ensuring New Zealand's position maintains or enhances the benefits we enjoy already as a trading partner in the area.

"The resolution follows an undertaking the Council made last year to take such a position and for me to contact the Minister leading the negotiations Tim Groser. I have done this and he has responded saying he is already taking into account the aspirations we have identified in our resolution.

"The key issue it seems is the necessary veil of confidentiality over the negotiations. This veil is the focus of our last condition that New Zealand's place in the agreement will only be ratified once it has been discussed openly through the select committee process.

"It is our expectation that a comprehensive social, environmental and economic assessment will be undertaken. We are confident that this process will occur and any agreement coming forward will bring the protections and opportunities proposed."

Following is the full text of the Council's resolution:

The Tasman District Council encourages the Government to conclude negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Free Trade Agreements in a way that provides net positive benefits for the Tasman region and New Zealand, that is, provided the Partnership and Agreements achieve the following objectives:

  1. continues to allow the Tasman District Council and other Councils, if they so choose, to adopt procurement policies that provide for a degree of local preference; to chose whether particular services or facilities are provided in house, by council-controlled organisations (CCOs) or by contracting out; or to require higher health and safety, environmental protection, employment rights and conditions, community participation, animal protection or human rights standards than national or international minimum standards;
  2. maintains good diplomatic and trade relations and partnership for Tasman and New Zealand with other major trading partners not included in the agreement, including with China;
  3. provides substantially increased access for our agricultural exports, particularly those from the Tasman region into the US market;
  4. does not undermine PHARMAC, raise the cost of medical treatments and medicines or threaten public health measures, such as tobacco control;
  5. does not give overseas investors or suppliers any greater rights than domestic investors or suppliers such as through introducing Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or reduce our ability to control overseas investment or finance;
  6. does not expand intellectual property rights and enforcement in excess of current law;
  7. does not weaken our public services, require privatisation, hinder reversal of privatisations or increase the commercialisation of Government or of Tasman District Council or other local government organisations;
  8. does not reduce our flexibility to support local economic and industry development and encourage good employment and environmental practices and initiatives like the Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency (EDA), the Nelson Tasman Business Trust, and the Mayors' Taskforce for jobs which enable marginalised young people to develop their skills and transition into meaningful employment;
  9. contains enforceable labour clauses requiring adherence to core International Labour Organisation conventions and preventing reduction of labour rights for trade or investment advantage;
  10. contains enforceable environmental clauses preventing reductions of environmental standards for trade or investment advantage;
  11. has general exemptions to protect human rights, the environment, the Treaty of Waitangi, and New Zealand's economic and financial stability;
  12. to be referred to a parliamentary select committee process enabling adequate time for public submission; and
  13. ratification is conditional on a full social, environmental, and economic impact assessment.


Comment by Joanna Santa Barbara:
[Posted 9 March 2014]

TDC did the right thing in adopting this resolution with 13 reservations about the TPPA. Congratulations, TDC! While the treaty is secretly negotiated at a national level, there are multiple impacts which may be felt at a local government level, some of them severely adverse.

Higher medication costs, internet costs, interference with national sovereignty in areas such as public health and environmental protection, and the likelihood of crippling legal suits when legislation is seen as interfering with corporate profits are among the problems a TPPA may bring.

Thanks to the councillors who helped with the passage of this resolution. We were well served by them. Let's hope the government is listening.

Comment by Phil Grimmett:
[Posted 9 March 2014]

It is disappointing and concerning that the TDC has decided to mix global geopolitics with NZ local government. It is beyond the responsibility of the TDC or other local councils in NZ to take a political position on an international trade agreement, along with Nelson and Auckland! This was not an issue at the last local body elections and as such the council cannot claim a proper democratic mandate for such a formal statement of support.

What will the TDC next PR press release be? Mobilising our Defence Forces to Kiev... Stick to the sewers and services for all the fortunate residents of Tasman.

Comment by Petra Stephenson:
[Posted 10 March 2014]

I am disappointed to read Phil's comment. With council adopting the resolution to a cautionary approach towards the TPPA, all council did, is try to secure council's right to be able to make local decisions in the future without being hindered by big international corporations.

This resolution tries to ensure that the NZ government does not give overseas corporations more power than Kiwis and our own government. It sounds bizarre that our government would even consider this, but from what has been leaked about the TPPA, here and overseas, the big money is making the decisions, not governments, and they are ramping it up.

None of the people in our group, who are fighting the TPPA, have anything against trade. But if only a minute portion of the clauses have to do with trade to the benefit of our exporters, and the rest is potentially curbing the rights of ordinary people, businesses, council and even future NZ governments, then this needs to be stopped. And it takes ordinary people and councils to speak up to ensure a good future for all - just like with the Nuclear Free Movement.

Comment by Phil Grimmett:
[Posted 16 March 2014]

To respond to the other comments. Firstly, my concern is that the the TDC is making up policy 'on the hoof'. This issue was not mentioned at the recent local body elections. The TDC has not been transparent with Tasman residents on this issue, thereby ignoring the democratic process.

Secondly, any inference that the TDC policy will influence central government negotiations with the USA (and other nations) is unbelievable. The TDC press release could've read "TDC rejects TPPA until conditions are met" and I would take the same position viz, the TDC is over reaching its role in supporting or rejecting this, or any, International Trade Agreement.

Do you really think the TDC will take a principled position, as outlined in the press release, if the agreement is passed by central government?

There are huge issues at stake and the speed, and secrecy, with which the current Government is proceeding is most concerning of all. Surely it is timely to put the issue before the electorate at the General Election in September. That's called Democracy.

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