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This website was part of a research project supported by a grant from the
School of Law at the University of Auckland to identify and critically
evaluate the potential implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Agreement.
It is no longer being maintained. For updates on the TPPA from a New Zealand civil society
perspective, please head to http://www.itsourfuture.org.nz/.

TPP members set timeline for first half of 2011

pen11 JANUARY 2011: The nine negotiating TPP members are now planning to to exchange services market access offers in March, according to Inside US Trade. These will follow initial goods offers, with TPP countries have pledged to make by January 17.

Those offers for goods will be the main topics of discussion at the fifth round of talks in Chile on the week on Monday February 14, while services offers will be tabled at the sixth round in Singapore on the week of Monday March 28.

Seventh, eighth, and ninth rounds are tipped in Vietnam (June 20), the US (September 6), and Peru (October 24),  with a possible sideline talk on the periphery of APEC (as happened last year).

 

 
House Democrats Call On Obama To Change Investment Provisions

us_flag10 JANUARY 2011: Shortly before Christmas, seven House Democrats, including six members of the House Ways and Means Committee, wrote an open letter to Barack Obama calling for significant reform to trade investment provisions in the TPP's final text.

Inside US Trade reports that their letter asks that that US exclude an investor-state disputes mechanism from the agreement, or at least attach conditions to the use of such a mechanism by investors.

Those conditions may include:

an 'exhaustion requirement' (firms need to have exhausted local administrative and judicial remedies before pursuing their claim);

an 'authentic investment' requirement (firms who have actively created jobs or made a material contribution to the economy in question may seek protection);

narrower definitions of both 'investment' and 'investor'.

In pushing for an end or a relaxation of investor-dispute mechanisms in US FTAs, the lawmakers point out that neither the US-Australia FTA or the original (pre-NAFTA) US-Canada FTA included them. Additionally, they point to the extraordinary rights such mechanisms grant foreign investors over domestic firms, the risk that existing domestic courts are bypassed and undermined, and the ability of governments to pass health and safety legislation in the public interest.

The letter was signed by Reps Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), John Lewis (D-GA), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Pete Stark (D-CA), Danny K. Davis (D-IL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA).

Last Updated on Friday, 28 January 2011 02:37
 
AFTINET summarises Productivity Commission findings, NZ Trade Minister defends investor-state remedies

tim_groser21 DECEMBER 2010: Australian fair-trade activism network AFTINET has neatly extracted and summarised the Australian Productivity Commission's findings on the shortcomings of current free-trade agreements (for reading here), while the findings have raised waves in neighbouring New Zealand.

Dr Russel Norman, co-leader of the Greens, says that the compounded effect of the recent Wikileaks showing official doubt of the benefits to NZ of any negotiated agreement and the APC report show that both the current National government and the preceding Labour government have 'over-hyped' their free-trade acheivements and back the Greens' previous stance that the TPP should contain no investor-state dispute provisions.

Speaking to Radio New Zealand's Morning Report about Norman's comments, Trade Minister Tim Groser said the Australian body's report was of no relevance to New Zealand, although he admitted that analyses of some previous FTAs, such as NZ-Singapore, would have shown fewer economic benefits.

He also defended the notion of having investor remedies against governments in trade partnerships:

TG: "A lot of New Zealand investors are always worried about...if we put our money into China, or...India. or into Brazil, what protections have we got around arbitrary law changes?...Investor disputes are very important to New Zealand...we have what we call in trade negotiations an offensive interest."

"I think it's perfectly plain that all New Zealand needs to know is that New Zealand has suffered from an inability to crack open markets, and any trade agreement that moves us in the right direction is worth doing, and frankly, whether it's a benefit of half a billion, or three-quarters of a billion, doesn't alter my judgment on that underlying issue one bit."


Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 December 2010 03:51
 
USTR indicates IP text tabled for next round of talks

circuit-boards20 DECEMBER 2010: Inside US Trade reports that USTR held a meeting with US stakeholders last week, where it was indicated that US negotiators would likely draft a proposed text covering all aspects on an intellectual property rights chapter at the fifth round of talks in Chile in February.

To date, the US has tabled proposals for general provisions and trademarks of an IP chapter of TPP. The February talks would see the US table sections on copyright, patents, and IP rights enforcement.

A blog on Knowledge Economy International, representatives of which were present at the stakeholder meeting, indicates that the US intends that unlike ACTA (in ACTA's current form), the TPP will have a dispute resolution process where parties may be subject to fines and penalties for breach of the agreement. KEI were also told the Obama Administration would not consider anything which lowered IPR norms as part of the TPP - in effect, IP laws and rights can only be harmonised upwards in TPP. KEI has some good examples of how this departs from executive policy under both the Clinton and Bush Administrations on its site.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 December 2010 03:24
 
Wikileaks Cables show NZ doubts, US pressure on TPP

marksinclair20 DECEMBER 2010: The New Zealand media published a series of cables at the weekend indicating covert pressure on pharmaceutical reform by US lobbies, as well as serious doubts by NZ's own trade negotiators about the possible advantages of any US-NZ free trade agreement.

Writing in the Sunday Star-Times, Nicky Hager reports that chief trade negotiator Mark Sinclair privately told a visiting US State Dept official that New Zealand had little to gain from a free-trade agreement. This differs significantly from the accounts of the potential FTA benefits given by Prime Minister John Key and Trade Minister Tim Groser.

According to the cable, detailing a February 2010 meeting, Sinclair told US Deputy Assistant Frankie Reed there was a public perception a US free-trade agreement would be an 'El Dorado' for NZ's commercial sector, but that 'the reality is different' and that NZ must 'manage expectations' about the benefits of such an agreement.

Neither Sinclair nor the NZ government has deigned to comment on the content of the cable, which also warned that negotiations would prove 'gut-wrenching' for New Zealand and criticised member states for 'hanging on to 'little fantasies' about what is acheivable'.

For the US's part, a December 2004 cable reports that the American drug industry has been 'trying in vain to persuade the New Zealand government to change its restrictive pricing policies on pharmaceuticals' and that their new tactic is to reach out directly to NZ consumers to foster demands for 'cutting-edge drugs not covered by government subsidy'. More surprisingly, that cable goes on to say that pharmaceutical companies saw direct opposition in the then-Labour government's Cabinet, particularly in former Primer Minister Helen Clark. It goes on to note that "the industry may be paying a price for its unsuccessful effort in 1990 to unseat Clark, who at the time was health minister".

The full-text cables on Mark Sinclair's meeting with Frankie Reed can be read here and here. An earlier cable in which Groser expresses strong desire for the US to come to the table on TPP is here, warns about 'anti-US' factions of the opposition Labour Party, and indicates his government will handle the public aspect of negotiations in a 'mature' way can be found here.

Professor Jane Kelsey has argued that the leaks indicate comprehensively that the government sees 'no tangible benefits' from a NZ-US free trade deal, and that the government should concede as such to the public. Her press release following these reports can be read below the break.

The TPP Digest is on the lookout for further Cablegate leaks relating to TPP, with all and any actual or prospective members, and will publish them as they become available.

Last Updated on Monday, 20 December 2010 10:17
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Further NZ demonstration against TPP hits Wellington

wellington_protest17 DECEMBER 2010: Scoop reports that the Wellington-based TPP Action Group has held a demonstration outside the head office of NZ's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in opposition to the current negotiations.

A group of over 30 protestors gathered outside Midland Park from midday on 16 December to demand that the government reformed its approach to free trade.

More photos of the demonstration can be found in the Scoop article, with the text below.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 December 2010 03:38
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Australian Government Productivity Commission releases final report on costs and benefits of FTAs

australian-flag15 DECEMBER 2010: Australia's Productivity Commission has released its final version of a report on the benefits and drawbacks of free trade agreements, after releasing a draft for consultation in July.

The 392-page report says that "businesses have provided little evidence that Australia's bilateral and regional trade agreements have generated commercial benefits".

Specific criticisms of existing models have been that:

- Selection of prospective partner countries is not prioritised or co-ordinated strategically;

- Other options were not adequately assessed before bilateral trade agreements were entered into;

- Modelling results pre-negotiation were used to oversell the benefits of the agreements;

- Consultation once negotiations had started were inadequate;

- Parliament is often poorly placed to handle the outcome of talks.

Furthermore, the Commission recommended that agreements should not guarantee foreign investors special provisions 'over and above those already provided by the Australian legal system', should not contain IP provisions as a matter of course, and that the government should be cautious about including labour standards and exclusions on cultural grounds.

It has also recommended that bilateral deals be subject to independent analysis after they are completed and before they are signed, a suggestion which has attracted the ire of some other negotiating partners who believe this could undermine Australia's negotiating position in future talks.

The full report can be read here. Canadian IP law expert Michael Geist has summarised the relevant areas of the Commission's report relating to intellectual property provisions on his blog, while Aftinet has issued a press release heralding the report. The transcript of an ABC news report about the Productivity Commission's findings appears below.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 17 December 2010 03:10
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