Friday, 18 July 2014

Request to LGNZ from The Renewables and Nelson TPP Action

TPP Transpacific Partnership negotiations

We ask you to place the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations on the agenda of the upcoming LGNZ meeting in Nelson. We ask you to make this an issue of priority in the local government manifesto you address to the political parties vying for office on the 20th September.

Why TPP is a vitally important issue

TPP addresses both trade issues and domestic regulatory concerns and standards. Most of the 29 chapters in TPP are about non-trade matters. Each of these is a claim made on behalf of corporate and trade interests that we Kiwis alter our standards to provide opportunities to profit.
Transnational corporations and trade interests have enormous influence over the USA trade negotiating position and use that to gain changes to our domestic law and international law and conventions that have application in New Zealand. Domestic trade interests also feature heavily in their lobby of our NZ negotiating position.
This treaty is being negotiated in secret. What we know of it comes from leaks. We are told that people will be consulted on these potentially dramatic changes to our domestic laws only after the government has concluded the deal and signed the treaty. Parliament cannot block its ratification. We are the ones who will be required to pay the increased prices that flow for products and services.

Why TPP is a local government issue

Local government will be significantly affected by a TPP treaty. Several local councils have passed resolutions which express these concerns. Many Councils are now calling on Local Government NZ to take a stand on TPP arising from The Renewables’ having placed the TPP issue before Councils in our 20th March open letter to all NZ Local Government and Territorial Authorities.
LGNZ provides a strong voice for local Government on issues which are both national and local. All national issues have a local effect.
Local Government will face the rising costs associated with reforms, through free trade and investment agreements such as TPP, for reasons set out below. These they will seek to pass onto ratepayers through increased rates and taxes. LGNZ recognises some of these impacts on its constituents and is taking steps to review methods of funding local and regional Councils;
The negotiating parties seek changes to our domestic standards that allow transnational corporations greater access to our domestic markets, resources and skills base. They seek to constrain the capacity of governments to act in the public interest, and lay them open to costly offshore litigation.

Key issues for Local Government in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

The focus of the TPPA is on advancing the interests of corporations, not commodity trade, as there is already an extensive network of free trade agreements among the parties.
The rules aim to constrain policy and regulatory options of central, regional and local government in what is known as closure of policy space. Application to local government is likely to be stricter than in previous agreements..
Some of these chapters are completely new, and available information says they will provide commercial players with rights to access domestic decision making processes and documents with greater opportunities and leverage to pressure local government decisions.

Key areas of significance to local government include:

Intellectual property – longer and stricter monopoly rights and restrictions especially impact on innovation, costs, and knowledge facilities like libraries and universities.
Public procurement – prevents local preferences and assistance to local businesses..
Investment – applies to a wide range of foreign investment, from property developers to purchasers of local government bonds. Rules include protections against new regulations by, for example, a local government that may have significant impact on value or profits.
Investor-State Dispute Mechanisms Foreign investors have the power to sue a government directly in private offshore tribunals for actions of regional and local government that are said to breach the investment protections. Once in place, fear of legal suit has a ‘chilling’ effect on a government’s willingness to introduce proposals in the public interest
Service industries. Local government will be unable to restrict the size and numbers of service facilities, such as big box retail stores, or rubbish dumps, or prefer local suppliers of services to foreign suppliers, for example in facilities management, transport operators and education. Some activities may be reserved, but local governments will be unable to tighten the rules in the future.
Domestic regulation: New restrictions are likely to require local government to adopt or maintain light-handed regulation of technical standards, such as environment, construction or zoning, licensing of activities, such as liquor outlets or rubbish dumps, or professional qualifications and registration, such as engineers.
Public health. The TPP threatens the viability of PHARMAC, the agency that enables New Zealanders access to affordable medications.
State owned enterprises could lose any preferential treatment in competing with foreign private companies, for example in access to public land, government guarantees, subsidies and cheaper finance through bonds.

TransPacific Partnership Negotiations - Local Government action.

Auckland City, Nelson City , Tasman District and most recently Whanganui District Council's Audit, Risk and Finance Committee (adopted and recommended to their 28th July meeting), have adopted the attached public interest policy in respect to TPP. (Note Tasman District Council made an amendment to point 12.)
Palmerston North City, Horizons Regional, Wellington Regional and Horowhenua District Councils have expressed their disquiet at TPP negotiations in a different set of words, focusing on the secrecy and lack of transparency of the negotiations and the potential loss of sovereignty.
Other Councils have now referred TPP internally for report and attention on their agendas.
We placed the issue of TPP negotiations before all Local Government and Territorial Authorities asking them to address this in relation to their Annual Plans and in their Full Councils.
The attached policy (Attachment A) statement sets a framework standard that protects the public interest. It represents the interests of local government in the negotiations for Free Trade Agreements (FTA). Our Public Interest Policy proposal arose from the concerns of Auckland Council in December 2012 when Auckland City hosted a round of negotiations by the TPP Parties. They developed the policy we propose. We have made only minor changes.
Local Governments are asked to do more and are squeezed financially at the same time. They will face rising costs (for example, from the normal functioning of libraries) associated with the TPP Treaty.
The Renewables and Nelson TPP Action are supporters of good governance. We desire that Government both local and central are not constrained by foreign corporate interests in creating, along with their constituents, a great place to live, love and prosper for all inhabitants of Aotearoa - New Zealand.
Thank you for your consideration
Greg Rzesniowiecki on behalf of the Renewables, and;
Graeme O'Brien on behalf of Nelson TPP Action.
Thursday 17th July 2014

Attachment A
TPPA resolution for Local Government consideration2

That (name of Council) Council encourages the government to conclude negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Free Trade Agreements in a way that provides net positive benefits for the (name of local region or city) Region and New Zealand, that is, provided the Partnership and Agreements achieve the following objectives:

i. Continues to allow the (name) Council and other Councils, if they so choose, to adopt procurement policies that provide for a degree of local preference; to choose whether particular services or facilities are provided in house, by council-controlled organisations (CCOs) or by contracting out; or to require higher health and safety, environmental protection, employment rights and conditions, community participation, animal protection or human rights standards than national or international minimum standards;

ii. Maintains good diplomatic and trade relations and partnerships for (local region) and New Zealand with other major trading partners not included in the agreement including with China

iii. Provides substantially increased access for our agriculture exports, particularly those from the (name of) region into the US Market;

iv. Does not undermine PHARMAC, raise the cost of medical treatments and medicines or threaten public health measures, such as tobacco control;

v. Does not give overseas investors or suppliers any greater rights than domestic investors and suppliers such as through introducing Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or reduce our ability to control overseas investment or finance;

vi. Does not expand intellectual property rights and enforcement in excess of current law;

vii. Does not weaken our public services, require privatisation, hinder reversal of privatisations, or increase the commercialization of Government or of (insert name ) Council or other local government organisations

viii. Does not reduce our flexibility to support local economic and industry development and encourage good employment and environmental practices and initiatives like the (insert examples), and the Mayor's Taskforce for Jobs which enable marginalised young people to develop their skills and transition into meaningful employment;

ix. Contains enforceable labour clauses requiring adherence to core International Labour Organisation conventions and preventing reduction of labour rights for trade or investment advantage;

x. Contains enforceable environmental clauses preventing reduction of environmental and biosecurity standards for trade or investment advantage;

xi. Has general exemptions to protect human rights, the environment, the Treaty of Waitangi, and New Zealand's economic and financial stability;

xii. Has been negotiated with real public consultation including regular public releases of drafts of the text of the agreement, and ratification being conditional on a full social, environmental, and economic impact assessment including public submissions.

1 The Rewnewables is a Motueka-based climate action group.
2This Policy is the proposal sent to all Local Government in March 2014.