One of the more enduring myths presented by the proponents of treaties like the TPPA is that they have to be approved by the NZ parliament. This isn’t the case. As usual with most right wing myths, they appear to be taking their civics lessons from Hollywood rather than reality.
For instance in a revelation of incompetence or a deliberate lie John Key said this about the TPPA
However, he said the agreement would still have to be ratified by Parliament, with the Government needing to build a majority.
No John – you complete dickhead. Perhaps you should spend some time reading about your own job. Parliament doesn’t have to “ratify” anything. In fact there is no such procedure in the NZ legal structure – I think that he is thinking of Hollywood perhaps?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) describes the authority thus:-
In New Zealand the power to take binding treaty action (that is, ratification, accession, acceptance, approval, withdrawal or denunciation or, in the case of bilateral treaties, signature) rests with the Executive. Within this context, Cabinet has decided that certain international treaties (essentially multilateral treaties and major bilateral treaties of particular significance) will be presented to the House of Representatives for select committee consideration, before the Executive takes binding treaty action.
In essence, this means that the “executive” aka cabinet graciously allows our governing body in parliament to look at a treaty in select committee. The select committee may or may not choose to allow public submissions usually depending on the inclination of the governing party MPs in that select committee. The select committee can then report back to the full house, which may not vote on the acceptance of treaty.
Except in very rare and urgent circumstances, the government refrains from taking any binding treaty action in relation to a treaty that has been presented to the House until the relevant committee has reported, or 15 sitting days have elapsed from the date of the presentation, whichever is sooner. The select committee may indicate to the government that it needs more time to consider the treaty, in which case the government may consider deferring taking binding treaty action. The select committee may seek public submissions. In addition, the House itself may sometimes wish to have a further opportunity for discussion of the proposed treaty action, for example by way of a debate in the House.
Implementing legislation: Legislation necessary to implement a treaty in New Zealand’s domestic law (if any) should not be introduced into the House until the treaty has been presented to the House and the time for reporting back has expired. The Government will not take binding treaty action until the treaty is implemented in New Zealand’s domestic law.
Now this is an interesting procedure. It is well suited for matters of defense which may be quite time critical. It means (for instance) that if the executive wanted to offer defense and support guarantees by way of a treaty to a country under threat, it can do so promptly and expeditiously in response to an emerging situation. However with a much less critical trade treaty, it means that the executive can if it chooses to do so can bypass all of the parliamentary checks before committing our country. Why?
Most of the effect of trade treaties is on matters like tariffs that are generally able to be modified by such non-legislative means such as the Executive Council telling the Governer General to sign and order in council. Typically much of the legislation passed by the NZ Parliament cedes authority to the governor general and their executive council as a matter for regulation.
Some important factors in treaties do not require even that. One major part of the unreleased TPPA provisions appears to relate to setting up international tribunals of “jurists” to settle disputes between participants, including between corporations and governments. At this point it appears that these tribunals will be setup using an unknown criteria for panel selection, have no particular deadlines, do not have to have public proceedings or published documents of their proceedings, are able to fine whatever penalties that they wish, have no transparent appeal process, and gain their power by their ability to bind other participants to restrict trade…
Importantly that also (as far as I can see) require no domestic legislation to be introduced, amended or changed. The reason why the word “appears” is so prevalent in the preceding paragraph is because no-one outside of a select group of diplomats and the their favoured corporations appears to have been briefed on much of the prospective TPPA provisions.
According to some of the leaked documents, much of this particular treaties provisions will not be released outside of the executive for years following signature because they will be required to go through countries with more legislator approval requirements, like the US, which will require years to approve the treaty.
In this case it is likely that some minor legislation will be required to be changed. For instance abolishing Pharmac’s ability to cut into overseas drug companies profits. However most of the TPPA does not and will not require any approval from parliament despite John Key’s assertions to the contary.