16 FEBRUARY 2011: The fifth round of TPP talks began in Santiago this week, with US pushes for more aggressive IP reform in the text expected to be a major source of debate and commentator discussion.
New Zealand, along with one another country, is understood to have submitted a draft text on IP, described as 'relatively progressive' compared to the IP provisions contained in most modern US FTAs.
As covered previously on TPPDigest, NZ negotiatiors have expressed concerns at the US's more aggressive demands on IP in the talks, which were understood to expand on IP provisions in the US-Australia FTA and make up for ground conceded in the current version of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The US reportedly submitted its own draft text to negotiators at the same time as NZ.
As with the Auckland talks last December, public statements on the progress of the talks are expected to limited to brief press conferences with stakeholders and the media.
However, delegates will be presented with signed open letters and petitions from civil society groups in Australia, Malaysia, Chile, NZ and the US asking that negotiations be made public and transparent. Negotiators will also be presented with a paper authored by Professor Jane Kelsey and Third World Network's Sanya Reid Smith, linking the agreement to continued international financial instability and offering a mock draft text.
Professor Kelsey says the current negotiations fail to recognise that the 2008 global financial crisis was the product of excessive liberalisation and deregulation, and that rather than rethinking an unsuccessful model, the TPPA negotiations appear to be bolting the door closed on the options for governments to re-regulate the financial sector and impose controls on speculative capital flows in ways that meet the needs of their people”.
The mock text is intended to approximate the actual text, still under negotiations conducted in secret. It is based on existing FTAs between the US and Singapore, Australia, Chile and Peru.
The authors recommend that financial services, financial investment and movement of currency are all excluded from the TPPA. Failing this, the agreement must provide allowances for national governments to continue to regulate the financial sector and financial transactions so as to prevent another crisis in the future.
12 FEBRUARY 2011: TPPWatch report that over 800 individuals and dozens of national representative organisations have now signed a letter calling on NZ Prime Minister John Key to release the text of the TPPA for public scrutiny.
Signatories include the NZ Council Of Trade Unions, Oxfam, church leaders, social justice groups, and IT and open-Internet advocacy groups.
National Distribution Union general secretary Robert Reid says that as the issues being negotiated run deeper than mere trade in goods, and to key issues of economic sovereignty and domestic powers to regulate foreign firms, discussions cannot be conducted in secret. The letter may be seen and signed here.
To coincide with the beginning of the next round of talks, a demonstration is being held at Wellington's Midland Park at 12.45pm on Monday 14th of February, which will then proceed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Lambton Quay.
21 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 Reportabout 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."
12 DECEMBER 2010: The conclusion of the fourth round of TPP talks in Auckland has seen more smoke than fire from both media and official sources alike, with the substantive detail of what was discussed at the negotiating table kept under wraps.
The USTR praised the 'steady progress' of talks, letting on that the necessary technical details have been finalised to prepare initial goods market access offers and that these will be exchanged in January.
Outside the talks themselves, there was active public discussion around the talks. NZ union leader and political commentator Matt McCarten had a feature editorial about the talks in the Herald on Sunday, while Scoop has published audio from Jane Kelsey, Sanya Reid Smith, Mike Smith, and Andrew Campbell's talk on the TPP at St Matthew's Church on Tuesday 7 December. A report on the end of talks from Business Dayfollows below.
17 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.
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.
9 DECEMBER 2010: Media scrutiny and discussion of TPP negotiations has continued in earnest this week, even as much of the debate turns around how much of those negotiations the media and the public can see.
A number of activist groups have called for the negotiating text, rumoured to be being assembled for the first time at Auckland talks, to be made open, with the NZ national union body's economist saying some of the items being negotiated were 'more important than legislation'. The call has been backed by some business groups as well, with small businesses especially worried that the TPP could see them shut out of government contracts in favour of foreign firms.
BusinessDayreported CTU chief economist Bill Rosenberg warned that trade simple was a 'very small part' of the envisaged agreement, compared to the potential foreign investment regulations and IP reforms a TPP may contain. However, Stephen Jacobi of the US-NZ Business Council lobby has warned that any early release of sensitive information akin to what the CTU is demanding would 'undermine negotiations', saying that if the final agreement is not in NZ's national interest, "(it) doesn't have to sign it".
Meanwhile, former Waikato University vice-chancellor Bryan Gould has written an editorial for the Herald warning against the 'potentially-far-reaching consequences' of TPP, and Tim Watkin of Pundithas criticised NZ MP Heather Roy for claiming that the country's nuclear-free stance will prevent any chance of a TPP agreement with the United States while also warning about the agreement's trade-offs.
24 NOVEMBER 2010: Over the course of the APEC Leaders’ Conference in Yokohama, TPP side-developments have continued apace, in part due the the Japanese government’s continued interest in the partnership.
The NZ Herald’s coverage of PM John Key’s APEC statements noted that he has drawn a hard line on agriculture, reported as saying that New Zealand ‘will not want Japan at the table’ if it attempts to exclude agriculture from any trade deal.
He added that Japan would need to enter TPP ‘only on (New Zealand’s) terms’.
To other TPP partners, he urged that they hold firm on existing criteria and conditions rather than relaxing any entry barriers and allowing compromises for Japan to join talks, while reiterating NZ’s desire to negotiate a ‘high-quality, comprehensive’ agreement.
Leading up to the talks, Japan’s nationwide polls showed nearly half of respondents supported Japan joining the TPP. However, Japanese agricultural and forestry workers have demonstrated en masse against the prospect of talks and Japanese PM Naoto Kan’s own ruling Democratic Party have urged him to temporarily abandon the free-trade drive. Ultimately, Japan indicated at the end of APEC that it would not make a decision on joining TPP until June 2011. This may be too late for Japan to join as a negotiating partner however; it may be required to accede to a complete agreement if one is completed.
Meanwhile, at a sideline summit of TPP members, Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet confirmed that his country would henceforth participate as a full member of the talks. Previously, it had held ‘observer status’, and had been required to decide before the Auckland round of talks whether it would shift to full membership.
Kan’s appearance at that summit was considered contentious enough in Japan that American officials banned television cameras from attending the meeting. The Herald’s John Armstrong reported that this had annoyed some other delegations to the summit.
4 DECEMBER 2010: Ahead of the commencement of the fourth round of TPP talks at Auckland’s SkyCity convention centre, Australian and New Zealand civil society groups have issued a press release urging Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and John Key to adopt a progressive and balanced approach to foreign investment during the talks.
A joint letter signed by 43 organisations urges Australian and NZ negotiators to reject anticipated US demands for the sort of investor-state enforcement mechanisms included in previous US FTAs.
Australia previously refused to incorporate such agreements in its 2005 FTA with the US. Professor Jane Kelsey, who coordinated the open letter on New Zealand’s side, has applauded the steps already taken to dismiss the idea of such provisions by both governments, but suggests that Australia and NZ go further by negotiating an agreement that “that rebalances investor rights with enforceable responsibilities and restores the primacy of national sovereignty and democratic control over investment-related decisions”.
5 DECEMBER 2010: Members of the public who want to demonstrate their opposition to a NAFTA-style TPP and hear from alternative TPP experts and commentators this week in Auckland have three great opportunities to do so, with two public demonstrations on Monday and a public meeting on Tuesday 7 December.
Information is as follows:
Protests: Monday 6th December: “No to the TPPA. Stop Gambling with Our Future 8.30am, SKYCITY Convention Centre, Federal Street, Auckland
Main speaker: Prof Jane Kelsey. Commentators Mike Smith, Sanya Read Smith (Third World Network), Andrew Campbell (FinSec) and other international guests( The views expressed during this event are not necessarily those of St Matthew-in-the-City)
The Tuesday event is free. All members of the public are completely welcome to all events, whether they consider themselves well-familiarised with free trade agreements or whether they are anxious to learn more about what they may contain and NZ’s role within them.
Also note that Jane Kelsey and Third World Network's Sanya Read Smith, who will be present in Auckland for the talks, will each be speaking about the leak and other TPP issues at a media briefing at the Welcome Room, Sky City Hotel, at 3pm on Monday 6 December. All media are welcome for this event.
While a number of key activities and discussions will be private and not open to the media, those not attending the talks but following them locally during the week may be interested in this programme of stakeholders' events. It includes presentations by both business and civil society groups, including Council of Trade Unions chief economist Bill Rosenberg and Agcarm Chief Executive Graeme Peters. Thursday and Friday's seminars are devoted to environmental issues and the question of how the TPP will deal with these.
11 NOVEMBER 2010: Japanese media report that a crowd of over 3000 citizens protested on Wednesday against Japan's plan to initiate discussions to join the TPP at the APEC Leaders' Conference in Yokohama.
A mixture of farmers, fishermen, and agricultural officials began their rally in an open-air hall before marching through the streets of central Tokyo, chanting and bearing placards. Speakers warned that if Japan joined the TPP, its domestic agriculture, fisheries, and forestry would be wiped out.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Naoto Kan's sole coalition partner. the People's New Party, has indicated it will not approve any TPP negotiations, while the main centre-right opposition party, the Liberal Democratic Party, has also made indications his party will not support taking part in the TPP. A Japan Today article on the rally has more information.
11 NOVEMBER 2010: As mentioned previously, New Zealand is hosting the fourth round of TPP talks from the 6th to 10th of December. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has invited interested stakeholders to take part in the programme during the week. Two large rooms at Auckland Central's SkyCity Casino and Function Centre have been made available for presentations and networking, and registered stakeholders will also be invited to attend an evening function with negotiatiors from all nine TPP countries.
Those intereted in presentations, or with any questions about registration or the event, may contact Alison Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
13 OCTOBER 2010: Inside US Trade reports that USTR, following the recommendations of a business coalition draft document, may be putting forward the US's own central co-ordinating body on regulation forward as a model to other TPP partners.
Currently, the US Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) takes a primary role in the US rule-making process - a federal agency wanting an issue a rule or regulation must comply with its requirements, including that a cost-benefit analysis of the rule is undertaken, and that the value in not regulating is also considered.
The US business coalition say the adoption of an OIRA-style body by other TPP partners would help regulate the decisions and reforms made across their government agencies and departments, ensuring they abided by the requirements of a TPP treaty.
However, civil society groups are wary of the effects of establishing such bodies. Sean Flynn of American University's Washington College of Law has warned that the US's current regulation oversight model was 'decades' in the making, and that the effect of imposing such an advanced model on developing countries in the talks, such as Vietnam, would be potentially destabilising.
A further concern is that there are currently no undertakings on whether the cost-benefit analyses envisaged would extend beyond trade costs (ie: to health, safety, labour and environmental concerns). Additionally, some groups have warned that strict regulatory coherence provisions would limit the ability of TPP members to regulate in the national interest - noting that Australia and New Zealand, both parties to TPP, have taken an aggressive stance on regulatory coherence in the multilateral Doha talks. As noted last week, New Zealand will be preparing a document on regulation for the fourth round of talks in Auckland, in December.
In comparison, the US approach to regulatory coherence at Doha has been less strict - it has opposed the 'necessity test' (requiring that regulations passed be 'no more burdensome than necessary') proposal that the two Australasian partners have previously supported.
8 OCTOBER 2010: Democratic Congressman David Wu has written an open letter to Barack Obama, calling for all US trade agreements under negotiations, particularly the TPP, to promote and uphold human rights.
Wu's letter observes that talks such as the TPP should be used as an opportunity to advance democracy and the rule of law in other member countries, and points to the so-called 'democracy clauses' in other trade agreements around the world (including the integration agreements for the EU and MERCOSUR), that the US could follow as an example.
In the TPP context, he points in particular to the presence of Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam in talks - all three of whom have been cited in the past for arbitrary limits on freedom of speech, the press, religious freedom, and assembly.
The full text of Congressman Wu's letter can be read here.
13 SEPTEMBER 2010: Public Citizen, along with 19 other US activist groups, has signed off an open letter to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk asking that any negotiated TPP restrict intellectual property provisions to levels no higher than those set under the TRIPS agreement.
It asks instead that the US build upon the more progressive IP exemptions allowed for in the US-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, which made patent term extensions and patent linkage voluntary while placing limits on the term and scope of data exclusivity.
It also asks that accession or adherence to ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) not be a requirement of a TPP. It is believed ACTA could threaten access to several generic medicines. New Zealand, the US, Singapore and Australia are presently negotiating parties in that agreement. The letter can be read here.
2 SEPTEMBER 2010: The August 2010 edition of New Zealand's Foreign Control Watchdoghas been published online. Readers may be interested in an expanded version of Bill Rosenberg's piece on the TPP, initially published in the Christchurch Press. This issue also contains an article on lessons New Zealand and other small countries can learn from the 2008 financial crisis by Bryan Gould, as well as contributions from John Minto, Vaughan Gunson, and Quentin Findlay.
18 JUNE 2010: The TPP is being characterised as 'the first major test' of the Obama Administration's trade agenda, according to the chairman of the US House Trade Working Group, Mike Michaud. As negotiations occur in San Francisco this week, he is once again arguing for negotiations to be conducted in the spirit of the TRADE Act, with a focus on job creation and economic opportunities for American workers and businesses. For their part, the USTR say the TPP will secure hundreds of thousands of jobs in each export-driven state.
Sources are reporting that the inclusion of new members is also a topic that will be discussed at the new round. It is being suggested that new members will be granted entrance to the talks at the consensus of all current parties, though they will be required to accept the 'high-standard' terms the other parties will have already negotiated. Canada and Malaysia are reportedly willing to meet these terms.
One likely source of dispute among the stakeholders this week has been investment, in particular investor protections against adverse government decisions. Public Citizen and other NGO watchdogs are urging a departure from previous US bilateral investment models, while business lobbyists are insisting that these investment measures in fact need to be stronger. Sources report that the US is proposing provisions similar to those contained in the recent US-Korea agreement.
Business groups, who sent a letter to Ron Kirk urging completion of talks by the APEC Leaders' Meeting in 2011, say they are pleased at the progress of targets and believe it will match their desired target, should it continue at its current speed.
17 JUNE 2010: Australian unions, health and environment groups have joined forces to warn of the potential consequences for the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and for the regulation of tobacco advertising if the TPP goes through. AFTINET say that submissions from US pharmaceutical companies to the USTR are seeking changes that could raise the whole sale price of medicines, and that the introduction of an investor-dispute mechanism to a settled agreement would mean tobacco companies could challenge moves that retrict access to or visibility of their products. Their full press release follows below the break. A launch was held at noon on Wednesday for an accompanying pamphet outside the NSW Parliament House, featuring speeches from investor-state dispute academic Dr Kyla Tienharra, as well as Greenpeace and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.
15 JUNE 2010: San Francisco community newspaper the San Francisco Appealreports that representatives of labour, environmental, andl civil society groups will demonstrate alongside a mix of other activists outside the second round of TPP negotiations, which began on Monday at the South of Market area of San Francisco's CBD. Local area politicians will appear alongside the California Fair Trade Coalition and the San Francisco Labor Council at the rally. The demonstration has been described as an attempt to channel the talks toward job retention, environmental protection, and human rights.
A noon concert by The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde, in association with PETA, aimed to highlight the Australian wool industry's failure to stop mulesing of lambs, while a number of public health groups have also been campaigning ahead of this week's meeting to retain US controls on tobacco in any negotiation.
12 JUNE 2010 - Issue 123 of Foreign Control Watchdogis now up on Converge's website. It focuses heavily on the current TPP talks as well as other pertinent issues in NZ at the moment (overseas investment, infrastructure privatisation). Contributors include CAFCA's Murray Horton, Global Peace and Justice Aotearoa's John Minto, and economist Bill Rosenberg. Links to the new TPP-specific pieces can be found on under 'Unions & NGOs' section of this site's main menu.
4 JUNE 2010: Following a call by the USTR for submissions for a proposed TPP environmental review, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends Of The Earth US, and The Sierra Club have written a nine-page submission urging for negotiators to ensure that all imports of wood, wildlife or products thereof meet the standards and laws of their country of origin. The groups have argued that a strongly-worded agreement could curb illegal regional trade in these products. In doing so, they hope that the TPP will take its cues from the 2008 US Lacey Act, which currently governs US prohibitions on illegally sourced fish, wildlife, and plant products.
The submitting groups are particularly worried about observing member Vietnam and prospective member Malaysia's reputations for illegal logging, as well as Chile and Peru's issues with illegal trade in fish. Inside US Trade reports that the environmental review will continue throughout negotiations, with a final report to be produced at their conclusion.
The groups additionally seek a scale-back of the ability for private entities to challenge government decisions in investor-state disputes, saying that these run against the ability of governments to regulate in the public interest. Their full letter can be read here.
18 MAY 2010 - The leaders of trade union councils from New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Peru, Singapore, and the US (though not Vietnam or Brunei) have written a joint letter to the Trade Ministers involved in TPP negotiations, calling for greater transparency in the negotiation of the agreement from this point forward. The letter, which follows below the break, argues that this set of negotiations present an opportunity for an agreement to be worked out in a more open and participatory way. It recommends that:
- An official joint TPP website be created and regularly updated with information about upcoming rounds and the ability for civil society groups to respond and post documents and and proposals;
- 'side rooms' be established at each round of negotiations for civil society groups could be briefed on the course of the agreement and present their views;
- consultations with civil society groups be on-going, not 'one offs';
- TPP negotiating members with indigenous populations consult such populations with procedures in accordance with ILO Convention 169.
Senior columnist for the Melbourne Age Kenneth Davidson has written of his general concerns for the repercussions free trade agreements have on domestic democracy and the commodification of labour, while also expressing concern about the secrecy and lack of engagement surrounding the initial round of negotiations. The article can be found online here, or below the break.
MARCH 30 2010 - The announcement that Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings, a Cayman Islands registered, Hong Kong-based company - has proposed a buyout of up to $1.5 billion in NZ dairy assets, including the substantiial North Island dairy operations held by the receivers of Crafar's farms, has raised a response from the Productive Economy Council and the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa cautioning against national asset sales of large portions of agricultural land. Given the current tension between the NZ dairy industry and its US counterpart, there may yet be further debate about Chinese businesses holding stakes in NZ dairy in any further TPP negotiations.
MARCH 16, 2010: At the start of the month, Australian Ambassador to the US and former PM Kim Beazley indicated that negotiations to to create a TPP agreement would put all issues 'on the table' and not retain exemptions from market access they have kept in existing agreements to date. According to Beazley, all countries that are currently participating in the TPP talks shared the view that all issues will be open for discussion at the outset of the talks. Now his words are being echoed by Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean, as this Sydney Morning Herald article (also featuring comment from Aftinet's Dr Pat Ranald) reports...
MARCH 14, 2010 - With TPP Negotiations set to commence in Melbourne on March 15, over 30 community and union groups have combined to make an appeal to the Australian government and Trade Minister. They ask that any completed agreement safeguard the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Australian local content in media, regulation of GE food, regulation of foreign investment and industry policies that support local employment. The joint statement follows below the break.