The National Party is evading questions around the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, after a move to table information released to the Northern Advocate was shut down in Parliament.
Green Party trade spokesman Russel Norman repeatedly questioned associate Minister of Trade Todd McClay during Parliamentary Question Time yesterday on whether the text of the TPP could be modified once the Government had signed, a claim made recently by Whangarei MP Shane Reti.
Mr McClay refused to give a yes or no answer, despite the question being posed four times.
"From the National Party's point of view, they want to present an image that there's a big parliamentary process [around the TPP]. Really, the point of those questions was to expose them for not wanting to admit the truth," Dr Norman said.
Dr Reti said in a press release to the Advocate that signing the agreement signalled the start of parliamentary discussion.
"It is during the ratification process that all the terms of the agreement are made publicly available. As part of ratification, the agreement comes before parliament and opposition parties and select committees for debate and modifications," the MP said in the statement.
Dr Reti concluded by saying: "New Zealanders and opposition parties WILL have a say on the TPP details well before it becomes law."
He later conceded that the terms of the agreement could not be changed and put the error down to "bad grammar".
Dr Norman said while the text of treaty would be released once signed, the briefing notes around what it would mean in practice would be kept secret for four years.
"It's very difficult to understand what this treaty means unless you have the interpretive documents. In order to make sense you have to have the briefing papers."
Dr Norman said Steven Joyce had to correct similarly untrue statements in Parliament in 2013 about the process for ratifying the TPP.
"The fact is, when it comes to dealing with trade agreements there is no all-of-Parliament ratification vote; a select committee considers it once; the TPP can't be modified; and Cabinet decides on ratification, not Parliament," Dr Norman said.
Labour's Te Tai Tokerau MP, Kelvin Davis, said Dr Reti "can't be accused of allowing the facts to be included in his press release".
"The reality is, once signed, the TPP is a done deal and Kiwis will probably be stuck with future governments being sued by corporates and unable to stop land being sold to foreigners, Pharmac being fiddled with and the Treaty of Waitangi ignored," Mr Davis said. "The TPP negotiations are so secret that even a National MP is guessing what it all means. That's a bad omen."
The TPP has been pitched as a way for the 12 Asia-Pacific countries involved to access each others' key markets, reduce tariffs and set common ground on issues such as intellectual property rights. Critics say the deal should not be negotiated in secret and that it favours profiteers.