Well now our government is involved in a new deal being secretly negotiated called RCEP ( but be careful not to say that acronym out loud in polite company!) It stands for The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership which is due to be concluded this year and includes countries like China, Japan, South Korea, India and Singapore.
And what’s the potential problem with that?
The answer is in a press release by International Law expert Prof Jane Kelsey last week in which she warns that once again our government may be about to break it’s promise and accept the same repugnant Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions that Labour accepted in signing the CPTPP that would allow foreign governments to sue us and thereby challenge our sovereign right to make our own laws in our own land.
She calls on David Parker to assure New Zealanders “that he won’t sell us out again by accepting ISDS and giving foreign investors even more power to intimidate governments from acting in the national interest.”
It’s a timely warning I support 100% because remember that New Zealand First completely sold out with regard to ISDS provisions in the CPTPP and Winston Peters is now the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
It’s ironic in the extreme that Labour,NZ First and Greens all called out National as being secretive in their trade dealings. Now that they are in charge there is no more transparency than there was before.
Here is Prof. Kelsey’s Press Release in full.
Is NZ about to break its promise again by accepting investment disputes in RCEP?
“Newly elected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in international trade and investment agreements ‘a dog’, and promised no ISDS in future agreements.”
“The government soon broke that promise with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, pretending that side-letters with a handful of the parties had an equivalent effect”, recalls Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey.
That allows foreign investors from countries like Japan, Singapore or Canada to challenge a domestic policy or law because it negatively impacts on the value or future profits of its investment, and enforce those pro-investor rules before controversial offshore arbitral tribunals that have no appeal and are accountable to no one.
One ISDS tribunal recently awarded USD5.8 billion against Pakistan for cancelling a mining permit allegedly because of corruption – almost exactly the amount of the IMF bailout intended to rescue the impoverished country.
“The next cab off the rank is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), due to be concluded this year. That includes countries like China, Japan, South Korea, India and Singapore, whose investors will gain even more rights to challenge New Zealand’s sovereign rights to decide our own laws.”
Professor Kelsey was at the negotiating round in Melbourne in early July. Officials met again in China this week for intensive negotiations on the investment chapter.
RCEP trade ministers are due to meet in Shanghai on Friday to decide on matters still outstanding in this secretive negotiation, including the investment rules.
“There is a high risk that New Zealand will capitulate again and accept, at best, a footnote that allows it to object, but would still allow the investor to sue New Zealand in this expensive and discredited system of international investment arbitration.”
Professor Kelsey called on David Parker to “assure New Zealanders that he won’t sell us out again by accepting ISDS and giving foreign investors even more power to intimidate governments from acting in the national interest.”
PS By the way It’s not just New Zealanders who are concerned about these secretive and unfair deals .The photo today comes from the People Over Profit facebook site which you can find here.
Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.