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No breach of Maori rights in TPP, Waitangi

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 5/05/2016

Maori interests will be "reasonably" protected in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement according to the Waitangi Tribunal.

There had been fears the deal could undermine Maori rights but the tribunal dismissed those concerns, saying a special clause afforded a "reasonable degree of protection".

The clause allows the Crown to take whatever measures necessary to give more favourable treatment of Maori including the fulfilment of the Treat of Waitangi.

Inclusion of specific Treaty of Waitangi clauses in the TPPA text was "to the credit of successive New Zealand governments," the tribunal said on Thursday.

However, the tribunal did have some concerns, particularly surrounding the right of overseas investors to bring claims against the New Zealand government.

While it did not agree with claimants that too much power had afforded to foreigners, it did say it may have a chilling effect on the Crown's willingness or ability to meet its Waitangi obligations.

Further discussions between Maori and Crown were suggested.

The tribunal was also critical about the Crown's consultation before the TPPA was agreed, but it made not official finding on the matter.

Trade Minister Todd McClay welcomed the report, saying it reflected the way the Treaty had been recognised in the trade deal.

"The Tribunal recognised that the development and successful incorporation of the Treaty exception clause, which has been in every free trade agreement signed by a New Zealand government since 2001, was an achievement," he said.

"Maori have much to gain from the agreement. Maori businesses are big exporters and have significant ownership in key sectors such as forestry, fishing, red meat, and dairy."

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