Seven countries’ senior legislators call for release of the TPPA text, Ministers must respond
‘There has been unprecedented call today from senior legislators in seven countries for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement text to be released before it is signed’, said Professor Jane Kelsey, who monitors the negotiations. The open letter reads:
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 trade ministers from the TPPA parties have backed themselves into a corner with their extreme secrecy. That position is now untenable.’
‘New Zealand is the repository of the TPPA, which is effectively the secretariat. Tim Groser needs to take the lead when the trade ministers meet in Singapore from 22 to 25 February and propose that they revoke the agreement not to release the TPPA documents’, Kelsey said.
The open letter followed approaches to senior politicians from Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand and Peru who had expressed concern about the lack of transparency in the TPPA negotiations.
The leaders and co-leaders of the New Zealand First, Green, Maori and Mana parties all endorsed the call.
Other signatories to the open letter include the Vice-President of Peru, the leader and trade spokesperson for Canada’s two main opposition parties, the trade spokesperson for Australia’s Green Party, and several former Cabinet ministers from Japan.
This is the latest in a stream of calls by legislators for release of the texts over the past year.
The Australian Labor Party succeeded with a motion in the Senate last December calling for the text of the TPPA and all other free trade agreements to be tabled in Parliament at least 14 days before they are signed. The Liberal government has refused.
Yesterday, the New Zealand Labour Party sought to move along similar lines:
“That the House call on the New Zealand Government to publish the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement before any final agreement is signed, with sufficient time to enable effective legislative scrutiny and public debate; either when it is made public by the United States Congress, or not less than 14 days prior to its signing in New Zealand; whichever is the earlier."
The government objected to the motion, which meant it could not be read.
Legislators from other countries have gone considerably further, demanding the release of the draft texts to allow them to do their job as legislators, open the process to expert analysis and democratic debate, and remove the reliance on leaked texts.
In December 34 deputies and 15 senators from Chile’s Parliament called on the President to halt the negotiations and make them transparent. Many belong to the party that will become the government in March.
Members of the US Congress have issued a constant stream of letters objecting to the secrecy and seeking release of the draft texts.
The letter and related documents can be found on www.tppmpsfortransparency.org, a website co-hosted by development agency Oxfam International and Article 19, an international NGO that campaigns for freedom of expression and transparency.
Jane Kelsey on Wikileaks latest leak
There are two new leaked documents. One is a consolidated or chairs’ text of the environment chapter. The cover page says ministers asked the Canadian chair of the environment working group to prepare the text. It is dated 24 November 2013, the last day of the Salt Lake City round that preceded the December meeting of TPPA ministers in Singapore.
The second document is the Canadian chairs’ report that sums up the positions of the other countries, including New Zealand, on the proposed new text and shows what countries disagree with which provisions.
The environment chapter addresses a wide range of issues from overfishing, shark-finning and protecting endangered species to recognising indigenous rights over traditional knowledge and genetic resources.
Professor Kelsey describes the text as ‘weak and unenforceable, hardly the 21st century standard-setter the cheerleaders have been claiming for the TPPA. Most of the provisions are aspirational and it has no teeth to enforce what limited obligations there are’.
‘This confirms our expectations that the “gold standard” rules are only for the corporations, not to protect people and the planet.’
The leak also provides insights into how ministers are trying to break through the deadlock in key chapters, of which environment is one.
Professor Kelsey observes that ‘asking one country to prepare a new text “on their own responsibility” to present to the rest is a controversial strategy used at the World Trade Organisation to isolate countries that are holding outlier positions, even ones that are critically important for them’.
‘Ironically, the US is the sole standout on a number of issues, notably its demand that countries found to be breaching the environment chapter should face trade sanctions.’
The leaked text falls far short of the standards set in a May 2007 deal between President George W Bush and the Democrat-controlled Congress, which the US has required in all subsequent free trade pacts.
‘This poses a major problem for President Obama’, Kelsey said. ‘Last week the administration tabled a Bill in Congress seeking fast track negotiating authority for the TPPA and other agreements. It is already struggling for support. This environment chapter will strengthen opposition from many Democrats and force Obama to rely even more for support from hostile Republicans.’
In an overview analysis of the text Professor Kelsey observes that New Zealand opposes enforceable rules. New Zealand has not achieved effective disciplines on fisheries subsidiaries that are seen to contribute to overcapacity and overfishing. It also does not support proposals from Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei that would give indigenous peoples stronger rights over traditional knowledge and genetic resources – in line with the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal’s WAI 262 report on traditional knowledge.
Waihopai & the GCSB spy on new Zealanders
The NSA spies on everyone .
People from all around New Zealand will be converging on the super-secret Waihopai satellite interception spybase, in Marlborough, on Saturday January 25th.
The Anti-Bases Campaign’s activities will start with a public meeting at 10 a.m., at the
“Spies And Lies: Waihopai & Global Spying"
Nativity Church Hall
76 Alfred Street
- Steffan Browning MP, Blenheim’s Green MP,
- John Minto of Global Peace and Justice Auckland &
- Warren Thomson of Anti-Bases Campaign
The purpose of the public meeting is to discuss the wider issues of spying, to put Waihopai into context.
To be followed by a gathering at
the Waihopai spy base’s main gate on
Waihopai Valley Road
with speeches from 2 p.m.
2013 was the year where it was conclusively proven that the GCSB & Waihopai have been illegally spying on New Zealanders for years (as ABC has said since the spy base was first announced in 1987). So what did the Government do? It passed laws (the GCSB & TICS Acts) to legalise the crime. And 2013 was the year that, thanks to Edward Snowden, it was conclusively proven that the US National Security Agency (NSA – the GCSB’s boss) has been, and still is, spying on everyone everywhere.
So this is ABC’s theme this time – in addition to our longstanding assertion that Waihopai is NZ’s key contribution to America’s global spying machine. Waihopai is a US spy base in all but name, operating on NZ soil, a vital outpost of the American Empire. Simultaneously, the US is pushing for a Free Trade Agreement, via the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (which the US wants to be concluded ASAP this year) as NZ’s “reward” for having supplied our troops as cannon fodder in Afghanistan, and for hosting the Waihopai spy base.
The GCSB has been given nearly three quarters of a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money in the past quarter of a century. The 2013/14 budget is $59 million, plus another $35 million was recently spent on new GCSB headquarters in Wellington. It is a criminal waste of taxpayers’ money. Waihopai’s operations are exempt from the Privacy Act, Crimes Act and Official Information Act, and MPs are specifically prohibited from investigating activities of the GCSB.
Waihopai does not operate in the national interest of New Zealand. In all but name it is a foreign spy base on NZ soil, paid for with hundreds of millions of our tax dollars; it spies on New Zealanders; and involves us in America’s global spying machine. Waihopai must be closed. (For details on Waihopai and what it does, go to the Anti-Bases Campaign Website)
Leaked IP text & US Congress revolts against Fast Track
Yet another leaked text of the intellectual property chapter was posted on Wikileaks today, dating from the end of the Brunei round in August. It includes the positions of all 12 countries and reveals a massive gulf between US demands and a bloc of other countries, including New Zealand. The US still has place-savers for several highly controversial further demands, notably on biologic products, which involve genes and living cells.
Analyses of the text are available from KeiOnline and Public Citizen Access to Medicines.
‘As we have consistently said, the obsessive secrecy surrounding these negotiations makes leaks inevitable. It is in the national interest, and the interests of democracy, for the parties to release the draft texts of all the chapters now to allow informed analysis, democratic input and assessment of the risks’, said Professor Kelsey.
In a second, stunning blow to the TPPA negotiations, 151 of the 201 Democrat members of the US House of Representatives today released a letter to the President that formally declared their opposition to giving him “fast track authority’. Others may follow.
The letter states ‘we will oppose “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority or any other mechanism delegating Congress’ constitutional authority over trade policy that continues to exclude us from having a meaningful role in the formative states of trade agreements and throughout negotiating and approval processes.’
Fast track, otherwise known as Trade Promotion Authority, would require Congress to accept the final TPPA deal or reject it, in toto, and not to cherry pick the parts they want and block what they do not like. No major deal has gone through Congress in recent decades without fast track.
The Democrats’ pledge means Obama would have to rely on Republicans, with whom he has been consistently at war over, most recently on the debt ceiling. Earlier this week 22 Republicans signed a similar pledge.
According to the New York Times yesterday, “Other members have signaled their opposition independently, meaning that roughly 40 percent to 50 percent of House members have signaled, sight unseen, that they do not support the regional trade pact.”
The TPPA parties want to conclude a deal by the end of 2013. Even if Congress was willing, there is no chance of fast track being approved this year. The House of Representatives has only 15 sitting days left for 2013 before they go on a month-long New Year break.
‘In a sane world, this declaration from members of Congress would see the chief negotiators abandon their planned summit in Salt Lake City next week’, said Professor Kelsey.
‘Their goal is to prepare the platform for Trade Ministers to engage in serious horse-trading in Singapore from 7-9 December’.
But Professor Kelsey warns that ‘without fast track, Obama can’t deliver on any political trade-offs. For New Zealand, and other governments, to proceed in that context is playing Russian roulette with our futures’.
The attached memorandum provides further information.
The largest margin by which any recent US President got fast track through the House was 27 votes. One passed by two votes and one failed. Opposition spanned party lines.
President Obama first said he wanted Congress to give him Fast Track during State of the Nation address in February 2013. Eight months later he still has not introduced a bill.
A bipartisan team of four senior members from the Finance and Ways and Means committees have been working on the draft bill for months, but have not yet agreed.
The toxic battle over the debt ceiling in October will resume in February 2014.
The Tea Party has already launched its anti-fast track campaign, and opposes the Trade Adjustment Assistance programme that provides extended unemployment benefits and job retraining to US workers who lose their jobs to trade.
There is a backlash among members of Congress against unprecedented limits on their access to the negotiating process and draft text (although they still have more access than any New Zealand MPs have.)
Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years. Their priorities, often linked to campaign funds, range across dairy, tobacco, pharmaceutical monopolies, mining, environment, offshoring of jobs, food safety, and re-regulating the finance industry. All are key areas in the TPPA negotiations.
He Should Lay A Complaint About Being Left Out
John Key says that he’s allowed to wear big boy’s pants because New Zealand is a member of The Club (Five Eyes, formally known as the UKUSA Agreement), which he says means that the intelligence agencies of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand don’t spy on each other’s countries. He reckons it specifically means that the US National Security Agency (NSA) does not spy on him.
To which the Anti-Bases Campaign says – pull the other one, John, this one’s got a bug in it.
Of course the NSA spies on its “allies and friends” in Five Eyes. Why wouldn’t they? They’re spying on all their other “friends”.
ABC says its dollars to doughnuts that NSA has been, is, and will be spying on Key. So will the other Big Brothers in Five Eyes. Indeed it is highly likely that the NSA will have subcontracted the job to one of the allied agencies to spy on the smallest of the small fry.
But don’t just take ABC’s word for it that the NSA spies on its Five Eyes allies, or that the constituent agencies are used to spy on other member countries. After all, we might be “anti-American conspiracy theorists with an axe to grind”.
No, take the word of one of the spooks who worked inside the system. And we’re not talking about Edward Snowden.
In 2001 (just after 11/9, as it turned out) ABC organised a national speaking tour by former Canadian spook turned author, Mike Frost. We did so because he had written, in 1994, an insider’s book called “Spyworld: Inside The Canadian And American Intelligence Establishments”.
Here are some relevant extracts from Bob Leonard’s review of it in our newsletter Peace Researcher.
“Mike Frost is not the first spy to spill the beans... But Frost’s is the only firsthand account (to our knowledge) of the inner workings of America’s National Security Agency (NSA) and its Canadian sibling agency just over the border, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE). Frost was an employee of the CSE for 19 years and spent plenty of time at NSA as well in training and liaison.
“Embassy collection even involves the Americans spying on the Canadians. In his many trips to College Park for NSA briefing, Frost learned of techniques for disguising antennas on the roofs of embassies. He and his colleagues quickly concluded that Canada was not immune to NSA spying. ‘The Americans don’t care who they commit espionage against, on the principle that they may get something that’s useful to their country. They routinely collect foreign intelligence against everybody’.
“In 1983, CSE was asked to spy for GCHQ at the behest of Margaret Thatcher. ‘…it seems as if Margaret Thatcher [then British Prime Minister] thinks two of the Ministers in her Cabinet are not ‘on-side’… She wants to find out if they are’. CSE carried out the intercepts: ‘We never stopped to question the morality of doing what amounted to dirty tricks for a partisan politician, for her very personal reasons, in a foreign land. After all, we weren’t spying on Canadians…that time anyway’”.
So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth. And why would Margaret Thatcher ask GCHQ to subcontract Canadian intelligence to spy for her within Britain, on her own Tory Cabinet colleagues, no less? So that British intelligence would have plausible deniability, if the spying was discovered.
Frost also revealed that Canadian intelligence spied on the US, for trade and economic reasons. He detailed how CSE bugged the car phone of the US Ambassador to Canada to find out what the US would charge China to sell it wheat. And then Canada successfully underbid the US. This was seen as a routine State aid to Canadian business.
The examples given by Frost happened decades ago, when Communists, not terrorists, were used as the justification for the spy agencies crimes and abuses, but the only things that have changed since then is that spying on allies and friends has become more extensive and systematic. It has got worse, not better.
So, John Key is kidding nobody when he reckons that NSA doesn’t spy on him. It is also guaranteed that they will be spying on NZ’s Ministers and trade officials in connection with the secret talks to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. The US will want to know things like how hard NZ really will fight to gain the “holy grail” of dairy products access to the US, and how hard NZ will fight to save Pharmac which the US drug transnational corporations want rid of.
It’s no defence to say “everyone’s doing it”. So, does that mean that the GCSB is using Waihopai to bug Obama’s mobile phone? That’s a very likely scenario, isn’t it?
New Zealand needs to close Waihopai and the GCSB, get out of the international criminal enterprise which is Five Eyes, and develop a truly independent defence and foreign policy.
ABC’s message to John Key is – you’ve spent too long away from Christchurch. Forget about Five Eyes; learn from Cantabrians and become one eyed.
Time to resist?