After sustained campaigning and pressure from public interest groups about the dangers inherent in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (currently under negotiation), MFAT seems to have suddenly gone all glasnost. Its website now includes information about what is going on, who it is talking to and what the issues are that it faces?!! Its website even has links back to other sites such as the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa, Jane Kelsey’s webpage and TPP Watch.
No doubt MFAT is feeling the pressure from the public concern about what the TPP might mean for Pharmac, and the recent news that tobacco giant Phillip Morris might use trade rules to sue Australia for compensation of plain packaging of cigarettes. Anyway, it’s a nice little step in the right direction by MFAT.
But, even when leopards change their spots they don’t shed them in a great spotty mess across the African grasslands. So this week MFAT, in one of their new newsletters says:
There still have to be limits. The TPP countries as a group have not been prepared to release negotiating texts, nor have observers in the room. This is not a position arrived at casually. A negotiation of this sort is a complex and sensitive process. As with any difficult policy process, it has both public and private components.
The problem is that the competing interests that MFAT is talking about are, on one side, the democratic interests of nations to know what binding and near-irreversible rules may be imposed them by these negotiations, versus the private, business interests of companies that wish to expand their trade into other territories. Unfortunately MFAT and its equivalents overseas are opting to side with the private business interests.
Personally, I’ve got nothing against international agreements on health, copyright, education, etc. But, to my mind such agreements have nothing to do with trade. Furthermore, they could and should be negotiated effectively in public by experts in their field. I imagine the world’s experts on health getting together to negotiate a treaty in a public forum on healthcare might come with something special. I don’t have the same faith in a collection of trade experts, none of whom are healthcare professionals, and all of whom have been heavily lobbied by private healthcare firms, negotiating a treaty in private.