The United States senate has passed President Barack Obama’s fast track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).
The fast track authority was passed last week with a Republican majority of 60–38, allowing it to move on to a vote in congress. If successful, the fast track will allow the TPPA to be either accepted or rejected when the finalised agreement is presented to congress. Without the fast track, congress would be able to amend the agreement, delaying its progression.
The TPPA is a multilateral trade agreement involving 12 countries, including New Zealand. The trade agreement, which has been kept secret, has generated controversy as a result of some of its clauses, namely the facilitation of investor-state arbitration.
A significant number of New Zealanders are opposed to the TPPA, many citing the impact the agreement will have on PHARMAC, New Zealand’s pharmaceutical subsidising company. PHARMAC allows the government to buy and subsidise certain pharmaceuticals in New Zealand to the benefit of consumers. While no official copy of the agreement has been presented, a number of leaked documents indicate that subsidising pharmaceuticals may provide unfair competition to investors, which the agreement restricts.
Despite widespread public concern, the National government has maintained the agreement will be positive for the country’s economic development. Trade Minister Tim Grosser told Paul Henry that New Zealand has pursued closer trade relations with the United States for more than three decades.
“In 1984, when I was then foreign policy advisor to David Lange just after the change of government, I managed to persuade David to have a go at starting an FTA with the United States — and we did. The dispute we then had over the ANZUS thing scuttled that, but we’ve been trying under various Labour and National governments to get this deal done literally for 30 years,” said Grosser.