1 April 2012
The nine parties to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPPA) negotiations have made a dramatic and unexpected u-turn, agreeing to lift the veil of secrecy on their draft texts and background documents.
Critics of the obsessive secrecy that surrounds the negotiations hailed the decision as a triumph for democracy.
Trade Minister Tim Groser was on record as saying: “New Zealand will never release texts without the agreement of our negotiating partners – end of story”.
“We had almost given up on the trade ministers and negotiators remembering they are accountable to their citizens, not to the corporate lobbyists who are driving the TPPA,” said Dr Jane Kelsey, a staunch critic of the agreement.
“A deal made behind closed doors, which would lock governments into the failed neoliberal model for the next century, is untenable in a democracy, but those concerns seemed to fall on deaf ears”.
“They ignored petitions from organisations representing millions of people across most of the nine countries and blocked hearings within parliamentary select committees.”
“Two weeks ago the Democratic Party Chair of the US Senate Trade Subcommittee Ron Wyden tabled an amendment in US Congress seeking more transparency in the TPPA negotiations, requiring public disclosure of the US negotiating positions and proposals”.
“Instead, the negotiations seemed to be retreating further into the trenches. We heard that all future rounds would be held in the US. That means the US, as host, controls the agenda. A raft of ‘inter-sessional’ talks will exclude any troublesome ‘stakeholders’,” said Dr Kelsey.
Despite massive internal disagreement, the US says it wants the deal tied up in July.
Hence, the surprise at today’s announcement that the negotiators have embraced a new free trade doctrine known as the ‘Dracula principle’ – pull back the curtains and flood the draft text with the disinfectant of daylight, allowing the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, like Dracula, to wither and die.