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.
13 FEBRUARY 2011: Four-day talks between Australia and Japan on bilateral trade suggest that popular Japanese oppositon to agricultural reforms will continue to stand in the way of Tokyo negotiating in the TPP.
The talks, which just ended and were the first on trade between the two countries since April last year, have been described by Australian negotiators as 'useful discussions', but it does not appear any breakthrough was reached over Japan's continued subsidies to its wheat and rice farmers.
A full piece on the talks from AFP follows below.
8 FEBRUARY 2011: Prime Minister John Key has come in for heavy criticism from some trade commentators and activists, following a statement by Assistant US Trade Representative Barbara Wiesel that a statement of his on the inclusion of investor-state dispute mechanisms in TPP had been retracted.
Last November, Key said that the possibility of investor-state clauses that allowed foreign firms to sue New Zealand in TPP was 'far-fetched'.
Now, Radio New Zealand says Wiesel has stated in a 31 January Washington civil society briefing that NZ's negotiators will now agree to the clause.
Green Party leader Dr Russel Norman immediately seized on the contradiction, saying that Key would have to explain why his previous statements could no longer be relied upon. He went on to warn that the inclusion of the provisions could affect NZ's ability to enact anti-smoking legislation, place restrictions on foreign ownership, and and Pharmac's independent purchasing choices.
Dr Norman also added that this highlighted the need for the text to be publicly released rather than negotiated in secrecy.
Professor Jane Kelsey has speculated that Key's response indicated that he "did not know what his negotiators were proposing to do when he described investor-state enforcement as 'far-fetched'; or he was lying to the New Zealand public; or he buckled to pressure from the US...to agree." She added that Key needed to be upfront about his exact intentions before the fifth round of negotiations commenced on 14 February in Chile.
Key subsequently said he had never retracted his comments, and that they applied to the possibility of civil suits rather than the inclusion of the provision itself.
The Radio NZ story can be heard here.
20 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.
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.
Following the lead of USTR, New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs And Trade has provided a summary of some developments of the week's talks. They indicate that particular sessions were held involving 'horizontal' issues of regulatory coherence, the future for small and medium-sized enterprises, and supply chains. Chief MFAT negotiator Mark Sinclair also held a press briefing on Wednesday 8 December with media, which can be heard here.
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 Day follows 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.
BusinessDay reported 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 Pundit has 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.
25 NOVEMBER 2010:
Dow Jones and other trade and finance sources report that TPP negotiators are looking to begin assembling a negotiating text during the fourth round of talks in Auckland. On a public hearing on Malaysia’s entry into talks following the third round, Assistant USTR Barbara Weisel has encouraged business and other groups to ‘move quickly’ to provide input due the fast pace of negotiations.
7 SEPTEMBER 2010: Actions by activists and civil society groups, unprecedented amounts of local coverage, and a major newspaper ad by New Zealand TPP opponents marked the beginning of the Auckland round of talks yesterday.
The NZ Herald ran an advertisement from a mixture of fourteen New Zealand celebrities, politicians, trade unionists, and academics - encouraging the reader to become the fifteenth 'reason to challenge the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement'.
A crowd of over 30 protesters gathered for an early-morning demonstration outside the CBD SkyCity Convention Centre, where talks are being held, while the co-leader of at least one NZ political party expressing concern about the final outcome of the agreement.
Greens co-leader Russel Norman told state broadcaster TVNZ that NZ's overseas investment regime may be targeted if the agreement is successful, while also drawing attention to his fears about investor-state dispute mechanisms. Norman called for PM John Key and Trade Minister Tim Groser to publicly undertake that no 'NAFTA-style' mechanisms would be included in TPP.
The Dominion Post ran an article with more optimistic predictions on the TPP from Groser and New Zealand-US Business Council executive director Stephen Jacobi, although neither dwelled on possible changes to existing investment frameworks.
Speaking in Parliament on Groser's behalf today, Acting Trade Minister Murray McCully said he could offer no guarantees that existing NZ policies would not be changed as a consequence of TPP, but indicated that NZ negotiators would take an 'interest-based' approach at talks.
Photos of the Monday demonstration follow below.
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 email@example.com.
For registration, please click here.
11 OCTOBER 2010: The third round of TPP agreement negotiations have ended in Brunei Darrulsalam. The talks ran from the 4th until the 9th, with parties giving a particular focus to the preparation of a consolidated text, as well as proposals for co-operation. Over 300 negotiators from TPP member countries participated, with 24 separate negotiating groups splitting aside across the week to discuss industrial goods, agriculture, textiles, standards, services, investment protections, IP, government procurement, competition, labour, and environmental standards.
During the talks Malaysia was made a member of the negotiations by the consensus of the eight existing members. Chief negotiators issued a joint statement to the press, saying they were 'pleased with the progress this week'. US Trade Representative Ron Kirk has notified Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, as well as Senate President Daniel K. Inouye, of Malaysia's inclusion. He hailed the state's plans for extensive economic reform, following issues which stymied the original plans for a US-Malaysia FTA a few years ago.
5 OCTOBER 2010: The fourth round of TPP talks has been confirmed to be held the week of 6 December in Auckland, New Zealand. Presently, negotiations will be held in the Central Business District's SkyCity Hotel and Casino.
TPP Digest will have further information on these talks as and when it becomes available, including responses in the New Zealand media.
OCTOBER 6 2010: In a letter dated October 5, 2010, USTR Ron Kirk has informed the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, that Malaysia will be included in ongoing negotiations on the TPP agreement.
Speaking ahead of the third round of TPP talks in Brunei, Kirk said that Malaysia's inclusion "will contribute meaningfully to these goals and to the development of the high standard , 21st-century trade agreement (the US) is seeking."
Kirk continues by observing that US goods and services exports to Malaysia totalled $10 billion in 2009, which the TPP will likely enhance. He also says he has Malaysia's assurances that since it embarked on a process of extensive domestic economic reform, it is now prepared to conclude a high-standard agreement, including previous contentious issues from the US and Malaysia's fruitless bilateral negotiations.
The Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry reported that the decision came unanimously among the existing parties, estimating that it would increase the total percentage of Malaysian global trade accorded preferential treatment to 71.2%. Bernama reports that Malaysia will be hoping to benefit from reduced and eliminated export duties on footwear, textile and apparel products, as well as cocoa, petroleum products, and timepieces.
27 JULY 2010: Tax-news.com reports from Hong Kong that The Philippines' Trade and Industry Secretary, Gregory Domingo has disclosed that his government may be interested in joining any extension of the TPP to new parties. In a turnaround in policy, Benigno Aquino III's government have suggested the country enters negotiations for as many FTA pacts as possible so that it is not 'left behind' by neighbouring Asian nations.
Presently, the Philippines is a member of ASEAN and a participant in its Trade in Goods Agreement, and participates in free trade arrangements already with Australia and New Zealand through this.
BusinessWorld reports the senior adviser to the American Chamber of Commerce to the Philippines, John D. Forbes, as saying that entering the TPP would help its exports to the US remain competitive, especially as production int the Philippines is more expensive than in Vietnam and other South-East Asian developing economies.
Forbes hinted that the Philippines should look to the US's existing FTAs with Australia and Singapore as a sign of the standards they would need to enter the TPP.
15 JUNE 2010 - The first day of the TPP negotiations has wrapped up in San Francisco, with the USTR once again dedicating a portion of its site to daily updates. It reports that a briefing was provided to major stakeholders that registered to attend the talks, including industry groups, environmental NGOs, unions, and fair trade campaigners. Topics of discussion have included the US approach to investment issues, how the agreement will relate to its predecessors, and the process for future accessions.
A plenary was then held setting out the goals for the week: determining a framework for market access negotiations and the relationship between the TPP agreement and pre-existing FTAs, and defining a path forward on so-called “horizontal” issues including small business priorities, regulatory coherence, competitiveness, supply chains, development, and regional integration.
In the afternoon, smaller working groups split up to discuss the following:
*Technical Barriers to Trade
*Legal and Institutional
Meanwhile, as the week began, nearly 100 US companies and business groups wrote a joint letter to Ron Kirk, claiming that 'time is of the essence' and that negotiators should aim to complete talks by the end of 2011. An AFP article follows below.
15 JUNE 2010: San Francisco community newspaper the San Francisco Appeal reports 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.
8 JUNE 2010: Trade ministers of each TPP member state met at the sidelines of the APEC conference in Sapporo at the weekend to lay down preliminaries for the second round of negotiations for the pact, set to commence Monday 14 June in San Francisco. The ministers resolved to direct their negotiators to be as 'open and creative' as possible in the areas of regulatory coherence, transparency, development competitiveness, and small-to-medium sized enterprises. It was also urged that stakeholder input from continue to be considered (though whether this was to come from business groups or civil society was not expressly clear). The USTR's report follows below.
4 JUNE 2010: A group of over 25 American corporations and industry bodies has written to Islam Siddiqui, the USTR's chief agricultural negotiator, urging that a 'comprehensive' TPP go ahead.
The group, which includes multinationals such as Walmart, Nestle, Kraft, and Mars Incorporated alongside lobbies such the Emergency Committee For American Trade and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, urges that all avenues for increased market access be investigated and that all products and sectors be included in an agreement to enable this.
The letter goes on to recommend that import-sensitive sectors be given appropriate tariff phase-out timeframes where it can be shown that they need more time to adapt, but with an eventual aim of total tariff elimination. At any rate, the writers entreat that sensitive agricultural sectors be up for negotiation rather than wholly excluded from the upcoming rounds. They conclude arguing that the TPP should be envisaged as a 'WTO-plus' agreement.
The letter follows in its entireity below.
2 MAY 2010: NZ negotiators confirm that the second round of TPP talks will take place in San Franscisco in the second week of June 2010. Several groups have come away from the first round of talks in March assigned to look at certain clusters of topics, with a view to preparing papers on those topics for the June negotiations. Horizontal issues covered to date include those arising from the TPP's regional approach (cutting through the 'spaghetti bowl' of differing regulations in the existing bilateral FTAs) , development issues relating to Vietnam and other developing nations that an agreement may expand to later, and how to create a 'living' agreement that can accomodate new parties and new issues.
Other points of note:
- Vietnam currently holds 'associate member' status in the talks, and has three rounds of meetings to decide whether it stays as a full member or withdraws.
- Columbia, Canada, and Malaysia have all expressed interest in potentially joining the talks at a later date.
- The reciprocal status accorded to goods and services between Australia and New Zealand under ANZCERTA will not be extended to other parties, as the relationship is seen as unique and contains 'no-go' areas for the US.
13 APRIL 2010:
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) have released a formal briefing on the first round of TPP negotiations. It solicits further comment from 'stakeholders' on the areas of Financial Services, Investor-State Dispute Settlement, Regulatory Coherence, and ensuring benefit accrues to small-to-medium sized enterprises from the TPP. It also describes the March round as being 'productive', while confirming further rounds of negotiations in June, October and December 2010, with the aim of completing negotiations by the end of 2011. The DFTA briefing can be read here
APRIL 2 2010: The possibility of a broad regional trade agreement in the Pacific is reportedly leading Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to consider reopening the market access arrangements in their own existing bilateral trade agreements. While sources are suggesting this is being done with an intention of creating a single, unified market access schedule to eliminate a 'spaghetti bowl' effect ahead of a TPP Agreement, a USTR official has already expressed doubts about reopening these agreements at a sensitive time. An Inside US Trade story follows below the break...
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 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 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...
Officials from Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, United States, Vietnam have begun talks toward the TPP in Melbourne, a move pro free-trade commentators are marking as a push for the APEC group of nations toward the long-term goal of an Asia-Pacific free trade zone. The talks are estimated to cover 470 million people, with a combined GDP of USD$16 trillion. New Zealand is sending a delegation of 15 to the talks. More below the break...(Radio New Zealand's report can be accessed here
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.
Inside US Trade, March 2 2010
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.