Audrey Young reports:
Labour’s trade spokesman and a former Trade Minister Phil Goff says he understands why the Government is not releasing text of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement but says it could be doing more to communicate with New Zealanders.
His position is more moderate than that of new Labour leader David Cunliffe, a former diplomat, who called on the Government to release the draft text on his first day in the job. …
Asked for a response to the online campaign by some New Zealand celebrities to release draft text of the TPP, Mr Goff said that would probably not be possible.
The 12 parties would have an agreement that the text could not be revealed.
“You probably can’t breach that agreement but what you can do and what the Government hasn’t done is broadly spell out its negotiating position,” he told the Herald.
Goff is playing this straight, while Cunliffe has been talking nonsense on this (and he knows it as a former diplomat). I’m all for more openness in some of our treaty or trade negotiations, but it is simply impossible to unilaterally release a negotiating text. You’d be effectively expelled from the negotiation.
All countries need to agree to to release a text. New Zealand has no authority to release a draft text. At the beginning of negotiations, it is agreed whether drafts will be released or not, and the international default is they are not. If you do not have agreement from other countries to release a draft text, and you do it anyway, then they’ll never trust you again. You won’t be allowed into any negotiations more significant than the protection of small snails convention.
Personally it would be good if there had been agreement when the talks began (under Labour) for draft texts to be released at certain stages. But you can’t unilaterally change or ignore the rules later on.
What is a worry is that Cunliffe knows this beyond any doubt. He has been a trade negotiator (according to his CV). When he called for NZ to release the draft text, he knew absolutely that it was impossible and if NZ did so, they’d be effectively expelled from the negotiations.
I’m glad to see Phil Goff is not acting so irresponsibly.
But what will Cunliffe think of Goff contradicting him? If Goff the one MP that has yet to swear loyalty to Cunliffe and Cunliffe has pledged to expel from party membership if he doesn’t get it? It’s probably Mallard, but might not be.
Personally I think Goff should pledge to be just as loyal to Cunliffe as Cunliffe was to him. How could he complain about that as a loyalty pledge?