Previously known as Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics PSRGNZ - Charitable Trust
As required under the new 2005 Charities Act, PSGR has reregistered as a charitable trust.

9 March 2016           

Committee Secretariat
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Parliament Buildings
WELLINGTON

Submission on the International Treaty examination of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

It is the general public of New Zealand who will be most impacted by the TPPA, and it has a particular impact on the Treaty of Waitangi and Maori rights and interests.

Public concerns have tended to be dismissed as unimportant and uninformed.  One can justifiably argue that New Zealanders need public consultation to become informed.  It is also disingenuous to suggest government has had or intends to have "extensive public consultations" on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) when New Zealanders have petitioned for and been denied consultation since negotiations began in 2010.

It is understood that, so poor has communication been, the Peace Movement Aotearoa has reported to the UN human rights treaty monitoring bodies currently considering the government’s performance:  the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) and the Human Rights Committee (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).

You now ask for submissions when it is probable the public will have virtually no influence on an agreement at this stage of its development.  Public consultation should have begun at the beginning.  Despite the claimed requirement for confidentiality the agreement could have and should have included NGOs and community organisations in all negotiations.  Failure in this regard is a failure of democratic process and reasons for civil society unease and rejection of what has been done in their name.

At this stage, close to 100,000 New Zealanders have signed the Labour Party instigated petition against the TPPA, and signed other petitions.  There have been many calls from the health and medical sectors and others professional bodies about the lack of transparency in the light of potential threats to health in New Zealand.  The Lens, the publication of the Public Health Association of New Zealand, in Focusing on public health (Vol 1, No 1, April 2015) , says of the TPPA:

“Despite the fact that this is a wide-ranging economic and political agreement, the TPP has been shrouded in secrecy, so what we currently know has been gleaned from leaked sections of negotiating documents, such as those released on WikiLeaks.  Outside of ministers, other elected members of the New Zealand Parliament have not seen the huge set of documents, and our Government has refused to share even high-level details of the negotiations with the public.”

The Lens1 also says of protesters:

“Over the last two years these have included 425 independent medical professionals writing to the Prime Minister; 60 public health academics and practitioners writing to the Minister of Health; 270 senior doctors, professors, and other health professionals writing to the Prime Minister; the New Zealand Medical Association supporting the call for an independent assessment of the TPPA’s health impacts; and the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists voting overwhelmingly in favour of independent health assessment prior to the TPP being signed.” 

Despite details now being made public, public and professional concerns have grown, not lessened.  Here are just five reasons PSGR believes New Zealand should say no to the TPPA.  The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement as it has now been revealed will -

1.    Take away the democratic right for New Zealanders to decide our own laws and policies in ways that best serve the national interest.
2.    Put corporate interests ahead of urgent priorities like climate change, affordable medicines, internet freedom, quality jobs, and social justice.
3.    Allow foreign companies to sue if actions are deemed not to be for health and environmental reasons, but are considered to infringe corporate rights and profits.  Even though much is made of exclusions included in the TPPA, regarding tobacco companies the protections are dismally inadequate.  Many other corporations may have a similar focus on profiteering at the cost of human lives as the tobacco industry has shown itself to have.
4.    Give foreign investors special rights not available to New Zealanders and a guarantee that government will not restrict foreign purchases of residential homes and land or control of key sectors.
5.    Bind New Zealand governments to a pro-corporate agenda for the indefinite future, in violation of our democracy, sovereignty and the Treaty of Waitangi.

The TPPA is seen by most New Zealanders as a threat to national freedoms and New Zealand’s democracy.  The ability of public to have a say in governance decisions and actions is diminished, potentially minimal at best, and may possibly disappear.  Any faith the public may have had in having problems solved and put right by government are further diminished.  Even if government decides to listen, action can potentially be stopped by the rights of an overseas corporation under the TPPA.

An example of this type of concern is amply illustrated by Australia being sued by the tobacco giant, Philip Morris, for requiring plain packaging of cigarettes; the New Zealand Government waiting to see what happens in the Australian case before introducing the same changes.  Human health does not count; profit does.

In a letter published in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet  27 New Zealand and Australian health professionals called on Pacific-Rim governments to lay out the details of the trade agreement:

"As health practitioners in seven of the involved Pacific-Rim countries, we call on our governments to publicly release the full draft TPPA text, and to secure independent and comprehensive assessments of the health and human rights consequences of the proposed agreement for each nation."

One of the lead authors of the letter, Dr Erik Monasterio MB ChB (Otago) FRANZCP, said:

“It’s an unprecedented expansion of intellectual property rights that will push up the cost of affordable and life‐saving medicines, hitting hardest the already vulnerable households in New Zealand and other countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia.”  He noted that the TPPA may limit public health initiatives that affect international trade, saying that governments could be sued for protecting health, but governments cannot sue back.  “This will stop important health initiatives on tobacco, alcohol, the obesity epidemic, climate change, antibiotic resistance, and other major future challenges.”

These health professionals asked for health impact assessments, for each nation, and then their public release, “so that parliaments and the public can discuss the issues before political trade‐offs are made and the agreement is signed.”  Were health impact assessments carried out?

The letter in The Lancet acknowledged that outlines of discussions at negotiations are provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on their TPPTalk page, but the reports have been notably light on specific details.
Previously over 270 health care professionals signed their name to an open letter to the Prime Minister, which was published in part in the Dominion Post.

We also refer you to the detailed document by Simon Terry  of the Sustainability Council on the Council’s studies of the TPP deal  claiming economic gains concluded that, on the information available, it was doubtful there was a net benefit for New Zealanders.  It demonstrated that the economic projections relied on by the Government used implausible assumptions and the real potential gains were a fraction of those claimed.

The Australian Productivity Commission says there is no evidence that such rights promote foreign investment and recommends against them altogether.   New Zealand could take heed of Germany’s declaration that it would not sign any further trade agreements with such provisions, its stance being influenced by direct experience.  Such rights open the door wide for foreign corporations to influence governments away from protecting the public interest.5

Of special concern to PSGR is the possibility of genetically engineered organisms being cleared for release into the environment for commercial growing in New Zealand when it has been clearly demonstrated overseas to have damaged the physical environment and now also the human environment, as well as farming profitability.

We urge the New Zealand government to honour its duty of care to New Zealanders and refrain from ratifying the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

We are unable to attend sessions to speak to this submission.

The Trustees and Members of Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility New Zealand Charitable Trust

Ends