TPPA Treaty clause not a breach, Tribunal says

The Treaty of Waitangi clause in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) should provide a reasonable degree of protection to Māori interests, the Waitangi Tribunal has found.

The Tribunal’s Report on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, released today, focuses on a clause in the TPPA which allows the Crown to take measures it deems necessary to accord more favourable treatment of Māori – including in fulfilment of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The TPPA is a free-trade agreement between New Zealand and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, including the United States and Japan.

The inclusion of Treaty clauses in the TPPA and earlier trade agreements was to the credit of successive New Zealand governments, the Tribunal said.

Claimants before the Tribunal had said that the clause would not protect their Treaty rights, and that the TPPA gave too much power to foreign investors.

The Tribunal had some concerns about the TPPA, particularly the right of foreign investors to bring claims against the New Zealand Government. It said that this may have a chilling effect on the Crown’s willingness or ability to meet its Treaty obligations. The Tribunal suggested that this issue, and an appropriate Treaty clause for future trade agreements, should be the subject of further dialogue between the Crown and Māori.

The Tribunal also looked at the Crown’s consultation before the TPPA text was completed. It was critical of the process, but made no findings on that topic.

Other aspects of the TPPA were raised at the Tribunal’s hearing in Wellington from 14 to 18 March this year. They included intellectual property and changes to Pharmac. The Tribunal did not make findings on those issues, as they were outside the scope of the inquiry.

The Crown has said that it will consult with Māori over UPOV 91, an international agreement which gives intellectual property rights to plant breeders. The TPPA requires New Zealand to sign up to UPOV 91, or implement domestic rules which have the same effect. The Tribunal has adjourned this aspect of its inquiry, with a direction to the Crown to file further information.

The Tribunal consisted of Judge Michael Doogan, David Cochrane, Tania Simpson, Tā Tāmati Reedy, and Sir Douglas Kidd.

Download the Waitangi Tribunal Report on the Trans-Pacific Parternship Agreement [PDF, 1.1MB] (external link)

For media inquiries, contact the Ministry of Justice media centre (external link)

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