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conveyorbelt19 JULY 2010: A draft research report by the Australian government's independent Productivity Commission has suggested that the national income flowing from future bilateral and regional trade agreements 'is likely to be modest'.

The report, released online last Friday, suggests that the Commission has received little evidence from Australian business to show that preferential agreements of this sort have provided substantial commercial benefits, and that current processes for assessing and prioritising such agreements "lack transparency and tend to oversell the likely benefits". Among its recommendations, it suggests Australia continue to pursue progress in the Doha Round, while carrying out full and public assessments of proposed agreements after negotiations have concluded, and that a cautious approach be taken to provisions on IP, investor-state dispute settlement, labour standards and cultural matters.

The government is expected to receive the Commission's final report in November 2010. The draft, meanwhile, can be read here.

 

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factory-workers22 JUNE 2010: US Representatives Linda Sanchez (California-D) and George Miller (California-D) have written an op-ed in the Huffington Post, framing the TPP talks as an 'excellent opportunity' for Barack Obama to deliver on his trade campaign committments and break away from the NAFTA models of the 1990s onwards. They call for the TPP to build on the initial improvements to the Peru Free Trade Agreement (negotiated for by House Democrats in 2007) by redressing currently 'excessive' foreign investor privileges, more stringent safety and inspection standards for food and manufactured goods, and promote US-based green manufacturing.

It also examines the records of Brunei and Vietnam and calls for the final text to include a democracy clause of some sort, cautioning that their inclusion may otherwise promote sweatshop labour in Asia while damaging industry in the US.

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sf318 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.

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australasia_117 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.

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North.island.arp.300pix17 JUNE 2010 - The Christchurch Press in New Zealand has run an op-ed by Council of Trade Unions policy director Bill Rosenberg, which highlights what he sees as the potentially risky areas of the TPP negotiations. He argues that for any final negotiated agreement to be truly '21st century', it must tightly regulate financial services and control the international flow of currency, especially subsequent to the credit crunch. Additionally, he argues that negotiations need to respect the independence of NZ's Pharmac agency as well as its current overseas investment rules. The full article follows below the break.

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gavel22 MAY 2010: American academic and blogger Simon Lester was among those who posed questions in USTR's online chat on Friday 21 May. He has parsed their answer to his question about the inclusion of a investor-state dispute mechanism in the TPP agreement on the International Economic Law and Policy Blog:

 

"Things that suggest inclusion:

-- it was a "priority" in prior FTAs

-- it provides "critical protection" for U.S. investors abroad

Things that suggest it won't be included:

-- its inclusion in prior FTAs was related to trade negotiating objectives from 2002, which have since been modified, and apparently have not yet been determined for the TPP

-- they are still looking for input, which suggests that the status quo (inclusion of investor-state) is not set in stone

-- there is no mention of the impact of investor-state on domestic regulations, which many people view as a negative aspect of investor-state (or does not mentioning this point suggest they want to downplay it in order to justify the inclusion of investor-state?)"

 

ustr5721 MAY 2010 - Last week was deemed 'World Trade Week' in the United States by the Obama Administration, and saw US Trade Representative Ron Kirk has been work to encourage buy-in for support of the TPP from both the US Chamber of Commerce and members of the public.

On 18 May, Kirk spoke to the US Chamber of Commerce's 'Next Steps on World Trade' conference
, with a focus on his administration's 'high-standard, 21st century, Asia-Pacfic regional trade agreement'. He again confirmed that San Francisco would be the site of negotiations on the week of June 14. With regards to market access arrangements, he said that any agreement would need to be 'forward looking' while also possessing 'enough flexibility to accomodate sensitivities'.

Kirk also indicated that the second round of negotiations would focus on 'value-added' benefits of a regional agreement, such as greater regulatory cooperation on issues such as food safety.


On 21 May, the USTR held an "online chat" session in which it answered submitted questions about various aspects of the TPP. The chat indicated that the USTR is focused on obtaining an investor-state dispute mechanism for the TPP, that it intends to 'consult closely with stakeholders' over the possible changes to rules of origin in the US textile industry that the TPP would require, and that the US will seek 'high-standard' IP enforcement rights. A transcript of the chat follows below.

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wbCREAN-420x0MARCH 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...

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australian flagMARCH 15, 2010: Barack Obama is due to meet with his Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd, on March 26. The whirlwind stop in Canberra is likely to cover the by-then complete negotiation rounds in Melbourne for the TPP agreement. While Obama is quick to hail the 'model alliance' between the US and Australia, serious doubts are rising in Rudd's capital about the lack of consultation and analysis going ahead into the negotiations, as an excellently-argued  Canberra Times op-ed by Professor Thomas Faunce expresses today...

 

 

 

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Inside US Trade, March 2 2010

kim_beazley_lismore

Australian Ambassador Kim Beazley today (March 2) signaled that
negotiations to create the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement
should put all issues on the table and not automatically keep in place
exemptions from market access commitments contained in current free
trade agreements the U.S. has with some of the countries now
participating in the TPP negotiations.

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