TPP negotiations involve 11 countries working towards agreement across a range of complex, sensitive issues.
A common element to any international trade process is the need to consider requests that negotiating partners raise. That is not to say that all proposals can be accommodated. In some cases they can’t, at least not without changes that take into account different policy perspectives. The negotiating process needs to provide space to work through these issues, for governments to consider their policy positions, and for negotiators to work together to construct solutions that are acceptable to all Parties. This approach is common to many international processes, such as the negotiation of UN resolutions, environmental treaties and other sensitive global initiatives that are developed in private.
TPP is no different. The complexity and sensitivity of some issues under negotiation mean that draft texts must be kept private to allow countries to come together to negotiate in good faith. Doing otherwise would jeopardise each country’s ability to a reach a mutually beneficial agreement. New Zealand supports and respects this approach in TPP.
Maintaining the confidentiality of negotiating texts and proposals does not mean business, NGOs, academics and members of the public are not involved. They are, extensively. This reflects the high level of public interest in TPP and the desire on the part of the Government to engage and meet with all interested stakeholders, whether they favour TPP.
In fact the consultation processes undertaken for TPP are among the most extensive any New Zealand government has undertaken for any trade negotiation. A wide variety of New Zealand stakeholders have, and make use of, the opportunity to seek information and offer their views so that their interests can be taken into account. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade invited initial public submissions in 2008 and a second invitation was made in 2012 for comment on the expressions of interest from other countries to join TPP. Officials engage regularly with members of the public in the lead up to negotiating rounds. In the last month, for example, negotiators have undertaken a proactive programme of outreach and have met with over 50 stakeholders groups, including business groups, local councils, health sector representatives, unions, NGOs, academics and other stakeholders. Consultation in key areas will intensify as the negotiation moves forward.
TPP is also New Zealand’s first FTA negotiation where stakeholder briefings and forums have been made a common and on-going feature of negotiating rounds. At Round 15 in Auckland, running from 3–12 December 2012, there will be a stakeholder day when registered members of the public can engage directly with negotiators on the issues that matter to them. We value this engagement and have ensured that all negotiators in Auckland will be available to attend stakeholder presentations on 7 December.
This engagement extends to the media. We hold regular media briefings before and at the conclusion of negotiating rounds. Auckland will be no different, with a media conference with Chief Negotiators scheduled for 12 December.
As with any international treaty that New Zealand is party to, a final TPP agreement will be made public before it is ratified as part of the Parliamentary treaty examination process. This will provide further opportunity for public comment on the outcomes of the agreement before parliamentary treaty examination is complete or TPP is ratified.