NZNO senior policy analyst Marilyn Head asks why we would want to let the United States dictate New Zealand’s laws.
I’ve been following the progress of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations right from the beginning. It’s a scary process, being negotiated in secret. The leaked documents I have seen show that if signed, New Zealand would lose out in all sorts of ways – from a loss of sovereignty to adversely affected public health outcomes.
What I didn’t fully appreciate until now was that, if we go ahead with the agreement, the United States’ (US) heavy handed approach to enforcement could extend as far as directing New Zealand’s laws. Judging by information released on a new website which identifies the legislative changes the US might expect of TPP partners, it appears I was overly optimistic.
The US has a ‘certification’ process which involves consultation with and monitoring of trading partners to ensure that their regulatory environment in consistent with treaty/partnership obligations. While that sounds fair – we all want to be sure that we are operating from a level playing field – in practice it is more ominous, amounting to direct interference in the democratic processes of sovereign nations.
The certification process would come after the TPP agreement is signed! It is another opportunity for the US to tell us what laws and regulations we must change before they implement the agreement. It is like having another bite at the cherry. It enables the US to exert huge pressure on countries which may not want to risk the ‘good deal’ they’ve signed up to with 11 other countries if the US pulls out.
The website exposé shows the areas they will be looking for ‘compliance’ with US regulations and the sort of pressure they’ve exerted on countries such as Peru where, as part of the certification process for the Peru-US free trade agreement, the Office of the United States Trade Representative actually drafted Peru’s legislation and demanded that it be accepted without change, with quite disastrous consequences for Peruvians.
The ‘barriers’ the US wants removed according to the website, will require changes to our domestic copyright and patent laws and Pharmac’s operating processes – changes that NZNO and many in the health sector have repeatedly pointed out present a risk of increasing the cost of medicines and limiting government’s ability to regulate for public good. The New Zealand Climate and Health Council OraTaiao says (pdf) that losing our sovereign right to create and strengthen the laws that form the building blocks for fair and healthy lives – access to medicines, clean water, food and air – will make it extremely difficult for New Zealand to maintain and improve our quality of life.
I agree. New Zealand laws must be made by New Zealanders.
Ahakoa, he iti he pounamu.