The Future is Equal

Court action to challenge secret trade negotiations

Oxfam joins others in the High Court to challenge the secrecy of TPPA documents.

Today Oxfam New Zealand joins others in the High Court to lodge urgent legal action against the decision to keep Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) texts secret from New Zealanders.

Oxfam New Zealand is joining other organisations in an urgent High Court application to challenge the secrecy of TPPA documents. Earlier this year Trade Minister Tim Groser refused to release TPPA documents under an Official Information Act request. The organisations bringing this legal challenge are seeking to have the Minister’s decision judicially reviewed.

Last week a meeting of trade ministers and officials from the 12 countries negotiating the TPPA failed an attempt to finalise the agreement. It is understood that negotiations will continue, though it is not known when. Oxfam has previously called for more transparency in the secretive negotiations, arguing that it is a threat to New Zealanders principles of fairness in trade, and to the models of good democracy for developing countries, to have no opportunity to scrutinise the text of this sweeping agreement before we become bound by it.

Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier said: “From leaks of draft TPPA chapters we can only assume that this agreement will have deep and lasting impacts on small businesses and small countries that cannot compete with huge multi-nationals with turnover bigger than our GDP. It should be completely unnecessary for us to resort to legal action just to be able to see what our government is signing us up to behind closed doors.

“Not only that, but if the TPPA’s clauses that grant new rights to multi-national corporations and a limitation on Parliament’s legislative sovereignty are finalised in secret, what message does that send to the developing countries that Oxfam works with, like in the Pacific, to increase their transparency and strengthen their sovereignty? This sets an alarming precedent of the powerful controlling future trade negotiations – we need to send a strong message to our government that trade agreements must enhance trading opportunities for small businesses as well as the foreign multi-nationals, without having to sell the family silver,” she said.