Human Rights Commission Asked to Audit Trans-Pacific Partnership

Media Release: Professor Jane Kelsey. Friday May 13, 2011

A formal request has been made to the Chief Human Rights Commissioner to examine the implications of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) for New Zealand’s international and domestic human rights obligations.

“Governments have a duty to take into account their human rights obligations when drafting, negotiating and implementing free trade agreements,” said Professor Jane Kelsey, who made the request.

“To do so, they require an explicit inquiry into and understanding of those obligations. Such an inquiry has never been undertaken in New Zealand.”

“The potential breadth of subject matter, geographical scale and enforcement powers proposed for this agreement make such an assessment a matter of priority and urgency.”

Over the past decade, a wide range of United Nations’ agencies have been highly critical of the trend for free trade agreements to undermine human rights guaranteed under international law, she said.

Their statements and reports have addressed the implications for rights to health, education and other public services, indigenous rights over lands, livelihoods and traditional knowledge, core labour rights, among other issues.

“UN Rapporteurs have also emphasised the right of every person to take part in the conduct of public affairs, including access to information and participation in public policy decisions, including agreements like the TPPA.”

The request for a human rights impact assessment of the proposed TPPA was supported by a detailed paper that draws on an extensive international literature and precedents for national human rights inquiries, especially for free trade agreements involving the United States.

The paper was prepared by Professor Jane Kelsey with assistance from the Human Rights group of the Equal Justice Project at The University of Auckland School of Law. (

The Commission has been asked, at the least, to conduct a scoping study of the issues raised by the TPPA and discuss the matter and appropriate responses with other human rights bodies in the participating countries.

It is hoped that the scoping study will support the need for a full ex ante Human Rights Impact Assessment of the proposed TPPA.



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