Friday, June 20, 2014

No more secret treaties

Last night, Wikileaks leaked the full text of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) Financial Services Annex. Like the TPP, its another "free trade" deal which isn't, being primarily concerned with locking in a global regulatory race to the bottom rather than trade. Most of it is about giving bankers the right to peddle whatever fraudulent financial products they want, and preventing countries from regulating them to prevent another global financial crisis. But a key provision bans governments from requiring that data be held locally, overturning both the safeguards of the European Data Directive (which are becoming a global standard and are about to be included in our own Privacy Act) and forbidding us from defending ourselves against US spying. And naturally, this is all being negotiated in total secrecy, with the draft text required to be kept secret for five years after the deal come into force.

It shouldn't be surprising that New Zealand is a party to these secret negotiations. But given that they it has been negotiated in secret, like the TPP, we cannot possibly regard it as binding.

We're a democracy. Our government acts on our behalf. That's the foundation of its legitimacy and powers. But as I've argued before, the consent of the governed does not extend to deals negotiated in secret and signed behind our backs. Such deals have no democratic legitimacy; their sole purpose is to enable "our" governments to lie to us, to betray us, and avoid accountability for doing so.

We need to immediately end our involvement in these secret negotiations. But beyond that, we need to end MFAT's predilection for getting involved in them in the first place. Secret treaties are an affront to our democracy. Instead, we should have "open covenants, openly arrived at", and ratified by Parliament in an open vote for which our politicians can be held accountable at the ballot box. Only then can they be considered legitimate and binding.