Human Rights Commission rejection of Trans-Pacific Partnership audit latest blow to democratic process

Media Release: Professor Jane Kelsey, Sunday 4 September 2011.

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission has declined a request for a scoping study on the human rights implications of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), saying it doesn’t have the resources.

‘The Commission’s response is hugely disappointing’, said Professor Kelsey, who asked the Commission to conduct a preliminary inquiry with a view to a fuller audit along the lines of inquiries conducted elsewhere.

She is presenting the argument for such audits at this week’s ‘stakeholder’ event at the Chicago round of TPPA negotiations that begin on Tuesday.

The request was supported by a detailed report that documents the views of international agencies that free trade and investment agreements frequently violate states’ national and international obligations.

This rejection follows the government’s move to block a hearing by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade select committee into the TPPA’s implications that was backed by Labour and the Greens.

One key element of the human rights concerns is people’s right to participate effectively in public affairs.

‘We are facing a brick wall, with no government agency prepared to bring daylight to bear on these secret negotiations.’

‘The parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and trade lacks the political will to examine the TPPA’s implications.’

‘The Human Rights Commission doesn’t have the resources to do so.’

‘The government has treated with disdain a letter signed by over 800 people and a broad-ranging petition from groups that represent hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders.

It refuses to disclose any meaningful information about the negotiations and the Official Information Act allows them to do so.

‘New Zealand is not the only country where lack of transparency is a problem. It will be a major issue at the stakeholder presentations and external events in Chicago this week. This pressure will continue until democratic principles are brought to bear on these negotiations’, Professor Kelsey said.




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