The key features of the parliamentary treaty examination process, set out on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s website, are as follows.
- The Cabinet Manual and Standing Orders require the government to present all multilateral treaties and major bilateral treaties of particular significance to the House before binding treaty action is taken (see paragraph 7.127 of the Cabinet Manual and the “International Treaties” section in Standing Orders).
- MFAT’s guidelines on what is a bilateral treaty of particular significance are intended to assist the Minister to exercise their discretion, but do not replace that discretion.
- Once a treaty has been presented to the House (with an accompanying National Interest Analysis), it is the subject of select committee consideration.
- The government refrains from taking any binding treaty action in relation to a treaty that has been presented to the House until the relevant select committee has reported, or 15 sitting days have elapsed from the date of presentation, whichever is sooner.
- If the select committee report contains recommendations to the government, a government response to the recommendations must be presented to the House within 90 days of the report (see paragraphs 7.123 to 7.126 of the Cabinet Manual and the “Reports” section in Standing Orders).
- In rare situations, the government may take urgent treaty action in the national interest before the treaty is presented to the House. When this occurs, the treaty must be presented to the House as soon as possible after the binding treaty action has been taken, with a NIA and an explanation of why it was considered necessary to take urgent action.