Charles Finny on TPP dispute mechanisms

A very informative Facebook post by former trade negotiator Charles Finny on the TPP:

My old University chum Timothy O’Brien asked me yesterday to defend ’s dispute settlement provisions.

TPP contains two types of dispute settlement. In the media and political criticism the two are often confused. There is the standard (in WTO and all our FTAs apart from CER – the reason why apples took so long to resolve)provisions which allow parties to the agreement to challenge breaches of the agreement. This is a purely government to government process and applies to the full agreement unless specified (e.g. interpretation of the Treaty of Waitingi the dispute settlement provisions do not apply). Then, in the investment chapter only, there is the investor state dispute settlement mechanism. This allows a company to challenge a government if it believes that government has breached its commitments in the investment chapter only. Many of the critics (who should know better) suggest that governments can be sued for breaches of outside of the investment provisions. This is not possible.

Useful clarification.

It is important to stress that TPP is worded differently to NAFTA and the Australian investment treaties that were used to challenge plain packaging of cigarettes. The critics often cite these agreements as examples of why we should fear ISDS without noting the fact that TPP has been drafted with the sloppy drafting in earlier agreements in mind.

New Zealand has been agreeing (indeed advocating for ) ISDS provisions in investment treaties and FTAs since the late 1980s (see for example the original China NZ Investment protection agreement). To date the NZ Government has yet to face a challenge.

Put simply I believe these provisions provide useful security for NZ investors offshore. Some of the governments we trade with and have FTAs or investment treaties are far more likely to breach these agreements than we are.

Not one challenge in 30 years, yet alone a successful one. Over 3,000 international agreements have provisions for dispute resolution and the number of actual disputes is very small – around one per agreement on average.

There are multiple exclusions (e.g. our Overseas Investment laws) and multiple acceptances of our right to regulate to protect the environment, to protect human health and safety, to discriminate for Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi etc to ensure that TPP will not have the type of chilling effect on policy making that the critics maintain. And, on top of the above protections, tobacco is completely carved out of the agreement so no worries there.

Our negotiators did a very good job getting numerous exemptions.

But is you want to nationalise huge hunks of the economy without compensation – you do have a problem. As you would if you tried to use human health as a justification for a policy if there was no science to justify the policy. Until recently I did not think that future NZ Governments would act in this way. This is why I think we have nothing to fear and that these provisions can only benefit NZ.

I’d say it is more likely a NZ company could use the ISDS against a fellow TPP country, than a US company could use it against New Zealand.

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