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Government must be more transparent on investor state clauses

The Government must be more transparent around the draft investor state dispute settlements in the TPPA, says David Parker, Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson.

“Labour is pro trade, and is proud of the FTA we negotiated with China, which includes well drafted ISDS provisions. We also support the FTA with South Korea.

“Some investor state dispute settlement provisions have enabled inappropriate claims by multi-national corporate investors for alleged losses suffered as a consequence of quite proper government decisions. We believe these sorts of ISDS provisions are inappropriate and should be avoided.

“The Labour Party will support the first reading of the NZ First member’s bill concerning investor state dispute settlement provisions (ISDS provisions) in Trade and Investment Agreements so New Zealanders can have a debate around these provisions.

“National should not be scared of that debate, especially given the low level of transparency around the TPP negotiations under National is fuelling suspicion amongst concerned New Zealanders.

“The arguments for and against such clauses include:

  • ISDS provisions can help protect New Zealand companies against unjust treatment in overseas countries where governments do not treat investors or exporters fairly, especially where Courts are not free from corruption nor impartial and separate from government.
  • However other forms of these clauses undermine the sovereignty of governments, including our own, to regulate for public purposes including:
    • Environmental standards for clean water or air, or climate change, and protection of public property rights – like terms for use of public water and access to rivers and lakes.
    • Public health measures such as what health treatments should or shouldn’t be able to patented, and controls on smoking.
    • Whether a country can control the overseas purchase of our farmland or housing if that affects values.
  • The adjudication panels are made up of trade lawyers who, while they may be independent of the countries concerned, may not be impartial because their private interests as trade lawyers can mean they are or appear conflicted.
  • Overseas investors may gain more rights than locals.

“In recent months, following a report by the European Union Ombudsman, the European Commission has promised more transparency in connection with the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP), the European equivalent to the TPP.  New Zealand should follow that lead,” says David Parker.