Is the National Party keeping some things out of sight in case they frighten the electorate? Here is some worrying evidence that this may be the case.
On 20 June this year there was a Wikileaks release on the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and the media coverage internationally was mainly related to its potential role in the delivery of financial services. Together the TISA block of countries, which includes the USA and European Union, call themselves ‘very good friends of services’ meaning apparently a free market neo-liberal approach to reregulation and modern so called Free Trade Agreements like the TPPA, TAFTA and TPIP. However the Public Services International (PSI), the international organisation of Public Sector Unions, released a report on 19 June which talks about TISA as an agreement for
“Governments [who] are planning to take the world on a liberalisation spree on a scale never seen before. According to the report, this massive trade deal will put public healthcare, broadcasting, water, transport and other services at risk. The proposed deal could make it impossible for future governments to restore public services to public control, even in cases where private service delivery has failed”.
An Official Information Act Enquiry (OIA) to MFAT confirmed NZ has been involved in negotiations on TISA since early 2013. Consultations are so secret that the government is even keeping the sectors involved in the agreement secret. Consultation with the NZ public has been minimal. 1800 subscribers to an exporter’s newsletter were the only group informed of the proposed negotiations and as at July 2014 there had been no responses from the invited participants. The newsletter has not been published since.
We know that the government is committed to Free Trade including agreements negotiated in secret outside the World Trade Organisation. However there is nothing on the National party website or Manifesto about TISA or in published Beehive speeches or press releases. Prior to the 20 June there was only 1 passing reference from a NZ journalist about the negotiations and since then none has focused on the potential impacts on public services. Given the PSI report’s analysis this could lend credence to the idea that sectors like local government,health, education and social welfare are a part of the negotiations.
If the National Party were proud its international free trade negotiations and confident that voters would want to endorse them it might be reasonable that the Minister would speak about them on the record and they might have formed a part of the election manifesto. Should we be worried that this is not the case?
MFAT information on TISA
MFAT invitation to submit outlining the opportunities but none of the risks of trade in services
Responses to OIA request for information on TISA
Of the many paragraphs redacted part 2 page 12 specifically lists the sectors involved
The redactions relate to
Section 6 (a) to prejudice the security or defence of New Zealand or the international relations of the Government of New Zealand; or
(b) to prejudice the entrusting of information to the Government of New Zealand on a basis of confidence by—
(i) the Government of any other country or any agency of such a Government; or Section 9
(j) enable a Minister of the Crown or any department or organisation holding the information to carry on, without prejudice or disadvantage, negotiations (including commercial and industrial negotiations)