Oxfam’s Executive Director Barry Coates writes to Trade Minister regarding TPPA negotiations
A letter sent to Hon. Tim Groser, the Minister for Trade, from Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director Barry Coates.
In this letter I am highlighting the content of the Open Letter submitted by legislators from seven countries involved in negotiation of the TPPA. This open letter has particular significance for you in your role as Repository for the negotiations, and I urge you to ensure this request is on the agenda of the Trade Ministers when they meet in Singapore on 22 February 2014.
The open letter reflects widespread concern from legislators over the lack of Parliamentary information and debate, and calls for the negotiations to be conducted with transparency.
The letter states:
“We, the undersigned legislators from countries involved in the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, call on the Parties to the negotiation to publish the draft text of the Agreement before any final agreement is signed with sufficient time to enable effective legislative scrutiny and public debate.“
The letter, available on the website www.tppmpsfortransparency.org, is an unprecedented call from Parliamentarians for sound democratic processes to be followed. Signatories to the letter include senior leaders of political parties and legislators who currently or previously held senior political office in their national governments.
The website also references the previous calls for transparency, including 132 members of Congress (both Democrat and Republican) on 27 June 2012, the Australian Senate Motion of 11 December 2013, the motion of Peru’s Congress of 28 August 2013, the letter signed by 15 senators and 34 deputies of the Chile’s parliament of 8 December 2013, and, as you are aware, the motion submitted by the New Zealand Labour Party on 11 February 2014.
Similar calls for transparency have been submitted by numerous civil society organisations internationally, including Oxfam. The leaks of draft documents on Intellectual Property and Environment chapters have highlighted the importance of transparency since they illustrate the extensive scope of the negotiations, and the crucial importance of Parliamentary and public input to inform the trade-offs that will inevitably be made if agreement is to be reached.
These calls have so far gone unheeded. Although you have stated that you do not want the negotiations to be carried out in the media, I find it difficult to believe that you would not want negotiations to be carried out without the full knowledge and understanding of Parliamentarians and without the trust of the public.
The denial of transparency in the TPPA negotiations falls well short of good international practice in the WTO and other forums, and I note the recent decision by the European Commission to release the draft of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and to consult widely on its proposals. The standards for TPPA negotiations should not be lower than other international negotiations involving the US, such as the TTIP, unless you consider that MPs in New Zealand and other countries negotiating the TPPA do not deserve a similar level of democracy to EU nations.
In the interests of transparency, I am making this letter available to others, in the hope that more voices will be added to this powerful call for the negotiating texts to be made publicly available and for Parliaments to be able to conduct democratic scrutiny of this agreement before it is signed.
Oxfam New Zealand
For more information on the TPPA visit