13 Jan 2016

Govt denies Chilean claim about TPPA signing

11:22 am on 13 January 2016

The Government is denying a date has been set for the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPPA) next month.

TPPA rally in Wellington

A TPP protest in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

Duty minister Simon Bridges said despite an official statement by the Chilean government that the controversial trade deal will be signed on 4 February in New Zealand, arrangements are not yet confirmed.

The statement, issued by Chile's General Directorate of International Economic Relations head Andrés Rebolledo Smitmans, said the agreement would be signed by ministers from the 12 countries that negotiated the deal.

The announcement sparked criticism from opponents of the deal, who said the fact the public only learned about the signing from overseas reports showed the government was still trying to limit the chance for New Zealanders to make their opposition heard.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little said it would be insulting to New Zealanders if the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement was signed in this country two days before Waitangi Day.

Mr Little, who visited the United States in December, said the controversial trade agreement was a bad deal for New Zealand and other small countries because it would inhibit their ability to make their own law.

He said having a signing ceremony for an agreement that eroded national sovereignty two days before New Zealand marked its own day of sovereignty would be arrogant and provocative.

Mr Little said he would be putting it to his caucus that a Labour-led Government should be prepared to defy the TPP.

A prominent critic of the controversial trade deal, Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey said the lack of any formal announcement by the New Zealand government before now was consistent with its "obsessive secrecy" throughout the negotiations.

Professor Jane Kelsey at her home

Professor Jane Kelsey Photo: RNZ / Philippa Tolley

Professor Kelsey, who led a successful legal challenge against the government's failure to release information about the negotiations, said the signing was premature.

"It seems quite reckless to sign a deal on the fourth of February when everyone knows that US politics will determine the final content. So there's a lot of water to go under the bridge here."

However, New Zealand International Business Forum head Stephen Jacobi said it would be very difficult for the United States - or any other country - to renegotiate the deal at this stage.

"This is a very delicately balanced set of agreements and understandings, and changing some of them will simply change the balance. I would be very surprised if this would come forward for negotiation, but you can't completely exclude it."

However, Simon Bridges said a number of countries were still working through the domestic approval processes required before signature.

He said arrangements for the TPPA's signing had not yet been confirmed and further details would be announced when and if they were confirmed

Opponents of the deal have organised a series of public meetings this month, starting with the Auckland Town Hall on January 26, followed by Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

The keynote speaker will be the director of the Washington-based Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, Lori Wallach.

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