Court finds minister wrong on TPP request

Refusal to release TPP documents unlawful.

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The High Court has found Trade Minister Tim Groser acted unlawfully when he refused to release documents relating to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

In a decision released today (358 KB), Justice Collins found Minister Groser did not comply with the Official Information Act when he gave a blanket refusal to release documents requested by Professor Jane Kelsey. Neither the Minister nor his officials assessed each piece of information requested against the criteria in the Act for withholding information.

The Minister has been directed to reconsider his decision.

Justice Collins stated: “I have quashed the Minister’s decision in relation to six of the categories of documents requested by Professor Kelsey … When the Minister reconsiders his decision he will be required to do so in a way that is consistent with his obligations under the Act.”

The decision also notes that none of the steps required by sections 18A and 18B of the Act were undertaken. Instead, the Minister “acceded to his officials’ advice that he should reject Professor Kelsey’s request without considering whether each individual piece of information held by the Minister and MFAT [Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade] could be lawfully withheld”.

Consumer NZ was a co-applicant in the High Court proceedings.

Last week, trade ministers from the 12 countries involved in the TPP negotiations agreed to a deal, though it may still be a month before the text of this deal is revealed.

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