1 May 2011: The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has declared an intention to have all its proposals on IP protections by the commencement of the next round of TPP talks in Vietnam on June 20, spurring renewed lobbying by pharmaceutical companies to secure advantages for the industry in any US bid.
Inside US Trade reports that reports that US pharma companies are seeking a final US proposal that replicates the same 'high-standard' of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) with additional protections for more recent pharmaceutical developments such as growing use of biologics (medicinal products created from biological and organic processes, rather than chemical ones).
Additionally, they are resisting any move by the US to base a proposal on the May 10, 2007 agreement. That agreement varied the original IP conditions in the Colombia, Panama and Peru US trade agreements in order to gain bipartisan support for all three to pass through Congress. The changes were designed to help ensure access to affordable medicines in developing countries. A leaked lobbying document from the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) indicates the May 10 agreement 'openly discriminates against the innovative pharmaceutical industry and would hinder (the) ability to compete fairly by lowering IP standards in export markets).
Lobbyists have also been outspoken about the current state of play in prospective TPP export markets, including New Zealand, which has a central state-run drug-purchasing agency (Pharmac). Pharmac is described as having a single-minded focus on 'driving down costs' that 'comes at the expense of the respect for intellectual property, transparency to the public and patient access tro better health outcomes' in the same document.
While no full details on what the US's June proposal will look like are presently available, senior USTR officials have indicated they would be open to moving away from the May 10 proposals. However, leading public health and advocacy groups are expected to use the May 10 agreement as the basis for their desired TPP proposal.
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.
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.
19 JANUARY 2010: Inside US Trade reports that the US will hold off tabling a full and formal chapter on IP rights at the next round of TPP talks in Chile because of a need to carry out intra-agency and congressional consultation on areas of potential controversy.
An official reportedly indicated 'very wide' differences of opinion among US stakeholders, and is urging private-sector ones to handle suggestions on how to best handle hotter topics.
It is understood that one such contentious area is that of 'secondary liability' on Internet firms for violations of copyright by individuals. The US was intending to include this in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), but the final language of that text as of August last year made the imposition of secondary liability on Internet firms optional. Secondary liability is strongly advocated by US movie and recording industry producers.
Further complicating the issue is the May 10 2007 agreement between the then-Bush administration and House Democrats on IPR, which relaxed stringent provisions on data exclusivity, patent linkage, and patent term extension. US industry groups oppose the retention of these relaxed provisions in the TPP context.
Overall, US private-sector groups say IP has been one of the slowest progressing areas of discussion in TPP talks to date. As previously reported, NZ has already drafted a paper opposing US approaches on IP and suggesting that the protections in TPP be limited to those already established under the multilateral WTO TRIPS agreement.
However, other sources are indicating Australia may end up being an ally of the US in the push for stronger IP protections. Additionally, sources have speculated that NZ's stance on IP is a negotiating tactic which they may relent on should they get the agricultural and dairy access in the US market they desire.
Professor Jane Kelsey has criticised the bid by USTR negotiatiors to make secondary liability a part of TPP intellectual property provisions. She released the press release below the break, warning that the move could 'reignite the hugely successful international campaign against secondary liability that followed the leak of the (local) ACTA text', on January 17.
23 JANUARY 2011: The southern New Zealand city of Christchurch will be visited by a number of high-level US officials at the United States New Zealand Partnership Forum next month.
The Press reports that Bush Administration USTR Susan Schwab will co-chair the forum, joined by former Senator and Govenor of Indiana Evan Bayh.
Executive Director of the NZ-US Council Stephen Jacobi has indicated the forum will 'assess how to move forward together on issues such as political security, trade and investment, education, science, and other global issues like climate change'.
The full press release appears below.
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.
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.
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.
26 NOVEMBER 2010:
The Green Party, currently in opposition in New Zealand’s parliament, have strengthened their statements on the TPP ahead of the Auckland Round.
Co-leader Dr Russel Norman has questioned Trade Minister Tim Groser on his claims that fears that investors may be able to sue governments for breaches of trade agreements such as TPP are ‘far-fetched’, particularly in relation to what potential provision exists in the current NZ-China agreement. When Norman asked whether Prime Minister John Key would rule out NZ’s TPP membership if it includes investor-state mechanisms that allow investors to sue governments, Groser indicated that negotiators would ‘look carefully’ at the provisions and give an ‘unqualified assurance’ to the NZ public that they would “carefully safeguard the sovereignty of New Zealand to entertain good public policy in accordance with the principles of open government.”
The full transcript from NZ’s Parliamentary Debates may be read below. Dr. Norman has also given his impression as to Tim Groser’s responses on the Green Party’s official blog.
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.
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.
A NZ Herald article on Key’s results from APEC (which also included a signal to begin non-TPP negotiations with Russia) and a CNEO piece on Japanese opposition to TPP talks appear below.
20 NOVEMBER 2010:
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has briefly indicated that he would not support investor-state dispute rules that allowed foreign firms to sue TPP governments in a press conference.
Responding to a reporter’s question about No Ordinary Deal and its discussion about the potential liabilities NZ could face under such provisions, Key responded as follows:
“Well, I haven’t read the book, but I have seen the piece Jane Kelsey wrote in the NZ Herald. I disagree with it.”
<The same reporter asks him to respond specifically to anxieties about investor-state dispute provisions>
Reporter: 'Well, it’s in NAFTA. Is that sort of thing being sought or is it being negotiated?”
“Not as far as I’m aware.”
<Reporter mentions Australian resistance to such mechanisms>
“Well, we would too. It’s pretty far-fetched. Look we can have a long debate about the merits of free trade, but New Zealand’s experience of FTA’s is that they create jobs, they build the economy, they deliver competitiveness and robustness and they’re good for New Zealand…there’ll always be some detractors from that view, and that’s life, but overwhelmingly I think the consensus view in New Zealand is going down the path of free-trade agreements as being good for our economy, good for jobs, good for wages.”
<Reporter notes that that doesn’t appear to be the consensus view of the American public in relation to NAFTA and other free trade agreements>
“Well, they’re entitled to their views. I can’t speak for the American people, but in New Zealand, I think if you go all the way to CER, there were plenty of detractors from CER, but actually it’s been very successful.”
Reporter: 'But isn’t there a difference between NAFTA and CER?
“Yup. CER’s between Australia and New Zealand, and NAFTA’s between the US and Mexico. I must go, thank you very much.”
The audio of Key’s post-APEC conference appears here. The end of the APEC conference has coincided with more sceptical pieces of NZ press on the merits of a TPP agreement, including a column by Gordon Campbell on Scoop.co.nz and a piece by Brian Fallow in the New Zealand Herald.
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”.
The letter can be read here. A press release covering the rationales behind the letter appears below.
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
5.30pm, Voyager Maritime Museum, Corner Quay and Hobson Streets, Auckland Viaduct Basin
Public meeting: Tuesday 7th December
6-8 pm St-Matthew-in-the-City, cnr Hobson & Wellesley Sts, 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.
5 DECEMBER 2010:
A leaked negotiating document
from New Zealand’s TPP talks has revealed a fundamental conflict between US and NZ positions on intellectual property in a possible agreement.
At the weekend, Public Citizen released the confidential paper, combined with analysis. It rebuffs the US’s ‘high-standard’ IP rights provisions as included in their recent bilateral trade agreements, particularly as they apply to medicine, entertainment and software patents.
The tenor of the New Zealand paper absolutely goes against that of a briefing paper to USTR negotiators previously covered by Inside US Trade and this site, in which US pharmaceutical companies singled out Pharmac as a non-tariff trade barrier which would pose a problem in negotiations.
The NZ paper goes on to recognize the effect of recent domestic debates on IP, including the 2009 controversy around proposed and abandoned changes to the Copyright Act and the recently concluded Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). As it says, such debates ‘are taking on a significant political dimension in many of our societies. Many IP users as well as some innovators have become mobilised to oppose the further strengthening of IP rights’.
Although the proposed Copyright Act changes were first initiated by the previous Labour government, the grassroots movement against them was one of the first direct public challenges to John Key’s government post-2008. The government has also continued to face scrutiny from Maori iwi about how its IP laws are used for their traditional indigenous art, design, and knowledge. The Key government was also criticized for the secrecy under which Wellington-based ACTA negotiations were conducted, a point also acknowledged in the paper.
Public Citizen’s press release on the leak can be found here or by reading more below. An executive summary can be read here. Third World Network has also analysed the paper, and Jane Kelsey and TWN's Sanya Read Smith 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 welcome).
5 DECEMBER 2010:
The NZ Herald’s Fran O’Sullivan reports
that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote to NZ Trade Minister Tim Groser a fortnight ahead of this week’s talks, warning that a change to New Zealand’s employment laws recently passed under urgency may have prematurely jeopardized US union support of NZ inclusion in the TPP.
In late October, New Zealand’s parliament passed the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill, the effect of which was to make film industry workers by default independent contractors, rather than employees. Previously, New Zealand’s Employment Relations Act required courts to interpret the ‘real nature’ of the work undertaken to determine whether a worker was in fact an employee or contractor. The extra-contractual nature of this interpretation exercise is also taken by employment courts in Australia, the US, the UK, and Canada.
The Bill excluded all workers who undertake ‘film production work’ from the definition of employee. It was passed as a reassurance to MGM Studios, who were threatening to move filming of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit to the Czech Republic following a dispute between actors’ unions and the studio which MGM claimed would make continued production in New Zealand untenable.
Trumka’s November 15 letter to Groser said that the “misclassification” contained in the Bill represented a “serious problem” which deprived workers of the right to organize and bargain collectively.
He want to say that the Bill “would violate the labour provisions of any future trade agreement between our two countries that we could support."
The Herald goes on to report that NZ Industrial Relations Minister Kate Wilkinson will respond to Trumka’s letter, re-affirming her government’s view that the law change reflects the realities of the film industry without preventing film production workers from being employed as employees where all parties in a contract agree.
25 OCTOBER 2010: Inside US Trade reports that Canada has been told by the US and other TPP parties that it is still not ready to enter negotiations.
It is understood the message was conveyed to Canada at a sideline meeting to the Brunei round at the start of October - the rationale being that a 'range of issues' existing partners had asked Canada to address have yet to be satisfactorially resolved. Chief among these are Canada's retention of a supply management system for its dairy and poultry sectors, which has led New Zealand to criticise its bid, and a perception by the US that Canada better needs to address intellectual property rights.
Canada has not stated which specific concessions it would make in its dairy sector or elsewhere, were it to gain membership.
In Brunei, Vietnam was also urged to decide ahead of the fourth round of talks in New Zealand whether or not to join as a full negotiating partner - to date, its status has been that of an 'associate member', which has saved it some of the responsibilities and commitments of full negotiating partners. Officials have not been specific as to what would occur if Vietnam could not give an undertaking as to full membership before the December round.
The US source IUT spoke to was also non-specific as to any role for Japan in the near future in TPP talks . They were clear that no informal discussion between Japan and the US has occurred to date, and indeed suggested that Japan may be perceived much as Canada - a potential party with too many domestic hurdles at present to be seen as a viable partner by members with strong agricultural sectors. It was also suggested that as the talks become more robust, US negotiators are keen to set a cap on the current nine negotiating members, requiring other states to accede in the future.
5 NOVEMBER 2010: NZ IT news site Computerworld has quoted NZ intellectual property lawyer Rick Shera as warning that that US and prospective Japanese participation in the TPP could signal a renewed attempt by by both countries to secure more stringent IT protection provisions they have not been able to secure in the latest version of the ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) text.
Shera believes that as the European Union presented a major obstacle to 'maximalist' IP protection in ACTA talks, the US may be using the TPP negotiations as an opportunity to circumvent opposition and set a tougher regime up among Asian nations.
The full article follows below.
5 NOVEMBER 2010: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spent the week in New Zealand, meeting with Prime Minister John Key and other senior officials. A large portion of news and attention has been devoted to the Wellington Declaration, a largely symbolic bilateral engagement documents on defence and regional issues - however the TPP has also been discussed. Key indicated to reporters that both a bilateral or multilateral deal could be discussed, but that "the fastest route through seems to be through the multilateral route and trans-Pacific partnership".
In a press conference held to coincide with the declaration, Clinton was asked about progress and timeframes for the TPP. Her response, together with Key's, falls below the break.
UPDATE: NZ trade experts have praised Clinton's brief public comments on the TPP during her visit - Radio NZ ran a feature on these on Friday morning.
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.
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 4 2010: Inside US Trade reports that a coalition of US business groups supporting the TPP negotiations have urged the USTR to include a separate TPP chapter to deal with regulatory coherence, in light of the reported emphasis negotiators have put on the topic in talks to date.
The coalition, headed by the US Chamber of Commerce, previously submitted a paper on regulatory coherence to negotiators in May. They have now issued another document of general recommendations, including that agreeements be made on a sector-by-sector basis. Sources say this may reflect the fact talks on coherence are at an early stage.
Other recommendations are:
* that negotiators identify in separate chapters a list of both best practices and unacceptable regulatory conditions;
* that the US request that other parties in the talks deliver a list of 'regulatory coherence deliverables and achievements' to set a sense of their initial progress;
* that any regulatory coherence chapter contain provisions on meaningful stakeholder consultation.
The coalition has also released a draft document of 14 'principles' ahead of the third round of TPP talks in Brunei. Its recommendations include:
* the conclusion of talks by late 2011;
* a set date for elimination of all tariffs and non-tariff barriers;
* that the TPP build on existing IP protections in previous US FTAs.
Sources say that as of early October, the US had not yet placed any concrete requests on regulatory coherence at the feet of the other negotiating partners, but may submit a concept paper on regulatory coherence during the third round of talks in Brunei, asking that parties outline what (if any) regulatory bodies and coordinating systems they currently have or use. Another source suggested that the US will aim to base its approach on its current position at the Doha talks.
It is understood that Singapore has already submitted a paper on regulatory coherence, while New Zealand, which is chairing TPP talks on regulatory coherence, plans to submit its own concept paper on the issue when it hosts the next round of talks in December.
29 SEPTEMBER 2010: Reforms to New Zealand's Overseas Investment Act have been criticised as being 'vague' and 'weak' by political opponents and lobby groups for greater economic sovereignty.
Deputy Prime Minister Bill English unveiled changes to the Act on Monday 27th of September, aimed at introducing 'extra flexibility' to consider contentious issues such as large-scale farm sales. Ministers of parliament will be given a right of veto over transactions where NZ's economic interests are believed to be threatened. The detail on how these applications are to be considered are to be fleshed out before the end of the year.
Newly organised group Save The Farms said there was little clarity around the rules and that the veto option was simply politically expedient, while the Green Party expressed concern that the suggested reform would become overtly politicised. Independent business commentators have also criticised the change. The new rules will not take effect until December, but will affect a large Chinese firm's bid for a major chain of New Zealand dairy farms in what was intended to be the first step in securing an NZD$11.5 billion dairy business. It is presently not clear whether or how these changes would affect NZ's continued TPP negotiations.
10 SEPTEMBER 2010: Following the TPP intersessionary talks in Peru, where the US indicated its preference for leaving existing FTAs in place while negotiating afresh with new trading partners, the NZ Minister of Trade, Tim Groser, has expressed concern about New Zealand's ability to gain the most advantageous deal out of the talks.
Australia's original FTA with the US was considered less than ideal, due to the exclusion of areas such as dairy and sugar. Groser told Radio New Zealand that he believed that under the preferred US arrangement, it would be harder for NZ to negotiate an agreement with the US that improved on the Australia-US FTA.
2 SEPTEMBER 2010:
The August 2010 edition of New Zealand's Foreign Control Watchdog
has 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.
7 AUGUST 2010: US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell has indicated in Wellington that the US commitment is present to ink a deal on the TPP. He also dropped hints that there was strong support for Korea to be bought into the TPP.
Dr. Campbell was in NZ en route to the Pacific Island Forum meeting in Vanuatu, which NZ Prime Minister John Key was also attending.
He held tripartite talks with NZ and Australia during his Wellington visit, the first such official exchange in decades. NZPA reports that he indicated the NZ-US relationship was set to "move up to the next level", despite the clear challenges he acknowledged would arise in the talks.
30 JULY 2010: Following the unveiling of widespread labour law reforms by John Key's National government, the NZ Council of Trade Unions has announced it will no longer co-operate on trade issues, while AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka has cancelled an impending visit to NZ in response to the changes in employment conditions.
A fortnight ago, Key announced a raft of changes, including a universal expansion of 90-day 'fire at will' probation periods for new employees, requiring permission for union representatives to visit workplaces, allowing workers to trade in a fourth week of annual leave for cash, and requiring workers to provide proof of illness on request if they take a sick day.
The CTU president, Helen Kelly, said that while her body has been "prepared to work with government and business to promote the best possible outcome for New Zealand" in the past, the government's new path of "undermining workers" means that unions cannot support the government any longer on trade matters.
Trumka was set to make an official visit to NZ early next year as part of National's campaign to build strategic allies ahead of further TPP negotiations, but he made the decision to 'indefinitely postpone' the trip following the reaction of the NZ union movement to the changes. Kelly has expressed concern that he would have been 'paraded' by Key's government in an attempt to give NZ a more union-friendly appearance.
NZ Trade Minister Tim Groser has already criticised the union stance as short-sighted. While the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Phil Goff, blamed National for Trumka's cancellation, he also re-affirmed his party's support for the TPP.
17 JULY 2010: The NZ Herald has recently run a number of op-ed pieces, of varying rigor, about the matter of foreign investment in New Zealand following a Chinese-based company's bid to buy 16 large dairy farms presently in receivership. The matter has split commentators and lobby groups, with the normally pro-free trade Federated Farmers association saying the farms should only be sold to countries that allow New Zealanders to purchase their land in kind.
In the July 15th edition of the Herald, Council of Trade Unions economist Bill Rosenberg argues that a review of overseas investment legislation is overdue and that much stronger controls are needed, especially as the relevant sectors are deregulated by a succession of FTAs, including those presently under negotiation such as the TPP.
The full article runs below.
5 JULY 2010:
The Otago Daily Times
reports that US Dairy Export Council president David Suber has warned that allowing the members of NZ dairy cooperative Fonterra to trade shares amongst themselves could jeopardise the inclusion of dairy in the TPP agreement. Writing to Agriculture Minister John Carter, Suber warned that the share-trading would serve to reinforce what is perceived as Fonterra's market dominance. The proposal, which 89.95% of Fonterra's members voted in favour of on July 1, revokes the requirement for the co-operative to redeem company shares - allowing them to be traded among 11,000 shareholder members instead.
17 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.
12 JUNE 2010 - Issue 123 of Foreign Control Watchdog
is 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.
20 MAY 2010 - The NZ-US Council has announced that its fourth Partnership Forum will be held from 20-22 February in Christchurch next year. Executive Director Stephen Jacobi made the announcement yesterday at the organisation's AGM. He says over a hundred NZ and US 'thought leaders and influencers' will gather to discuss the relationship between the two countries under 'Chatham House Rules' (allowing delegates to speak and have their views considered without those views being identified as those of their organisation). Mr Jacobi indicated the Forum would be 'crucial' as it would come at a time when NZ sought to conclude TPP negotations. The Council's statement follows below.
1 MAY 2010: The USTR has firmly opposed the notion of excluding the dairy sector in its entireity from any completed TPP negotiation. Inside US Trade reports there have been potential tradeoffs discussed, including US dairy concessions in the talks in exchange for the raising of barriers on imports of milk protein concentrates (which New Zealand is a major exporter of). USTR has made it clear, however that it does not presently back legislation imposing such tariffs. Additionally, the proposed tariffs on MPC's would violate US committments at the WTO, meaning the US may have to negotiate with WTO members not part of the TPP who believe the barriers might affect them.
24 APRIL 2010: New Zealand's National government have indicated they will not scrap Pharmac, the Pharmaceutical Management Agency of New Zealand, under any free-trade deal. Pharmac is the New Zealand government agency that decides on behalf of the nation's District Health Boards which medicines are to be subsidised. The NZ Herald has identified it as one of two likely stumbling blocks (the other being dairy) in the completion of a free-trade agreement between NZ and the US.
Trade Minister Tim Groser has described Pharmac as "an outstandingly successful public institution" which he had seen no need to make concessions on when he negotiated with US on the Trade Ministry's behalf ten years ago, while Health Minister Tony Ryall has called predictions by NZ pharmaceutical lobby group the Researched Medicines Association that Pharmac will face pressure for reform under any TPP "hypothetical and speculative". The USTR 'hit list' on New Zealand's trade barriers for 2010 notes US industry concerns about Pharmac's 'lack of transparency and predictability' and an 'onerous' approval process for their products.
16 APRIL 2010: The Washington Trade Daily reports that the USTR has met with leaders of Congress's congressional caucus on dairy farming to attempt to allay their fears about the sector being liberalised as part of any completed TPP agreement, and opened up to competition by New Zealand.Caucus co-chair Peter Welch (D-Vermont) has advocated NZ dairy trade's exclusion from the TPP, backed by a number of US dairy organisations. The WTD continues:
"Mr. Kirk told reporters he understands those concerns, but he is not ready to take anything off the table this early in the negotiations. The first round of TPP talks took place last month. There is plenty of time to look for creative solutions that would benefit the US dairy industry, he said. Actually this is a good time to ask what the US government can do to help US milk produces export so they can be just as competitive as New Zealand.'"
Kirk also asked the caucus and US producers to bear in mind the substantial market access the TPP could open up over multiple markets,especially should it expand to become a full Asia-Pacific multilateral agreement.
13 APRIL 2010 - NZ Prime Minister John Key has had a session with US Vice-President Joe Biden on his visit to Washington, DC, in which the two politicians discussed free trade and the TPP negotiations. Key reportedly emphasised the value of a completed TPP agreement to both states, emphasising that agricultural importing and exporting would not be a one-way street for either NZ or the US. Key's visit came after over 30 US Senators signed an open letter on behalf of their constituencies, asking that dairy be excluded from any FTA with New Zealand. A NZ Herald article has more on Key and Biden's discussion.
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...
The Office of the United States Trade Representative has just released its annual 'hit list' for 2010 on subsisting trade barriers in its trading partner countries. All seven of its current negotiating partners in the TPP are reviewed, with all having particular areas where the US argues further reform, liberalisation, or transparency is needed. These include pharmecutical goods, audiovisual and media services, tariff barriers, investment rules, e-commerce, and legal services. All 2010 USTR profiles can be found on the respective country page on this site, and below.
USTR report on NZ's Foreign Trade Barriers, 2010
USTR report on Australian Trade Barriers, 2010
USTR report on Chilean Trade Barriers, 2010
USTR report on Brunei's Trade Barriers, 2010
USTR report on Singapore's Trade Barriers, 2010
USTR report on Peru's Trade Barriers, 2010
USTR report on Vietnam's Trade Barriers, 2010
26 MARCH 2010 -
John Ballingall, the deputy chief executive of the New Zealand Institute For Economic Research
, has responded to the NZ Herald
opinion piece by Bernard Hickey
on the disadvantages of a free trade agreement with the United States. He argues that the agreement is between multiple countries rather than one between the United States and New Zealand alone, and that while dairy will be a matter of tough negotiation, it cannot be absolutely blocked in any final agreement. The full, annotated version of Ballingall's article is available online here
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.
The March 30 edition of the Otago Daily Times looks at the phenomenon of foreign investors considering NZ farms and primary processing plants. It is likely that any future FTA with TPP parties will raise these same considerations for NZ. The article follows below the break.
23 MARCH 2010: New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has downplayed the concerns of both the US Dairy Producers Federation and a group of thirty senators regarding the negotiation of a US-NZ FTA as part of the TPP, saying he believes that the stance is a hard curtain-raising position that will later be softened. He has also said that New Zealand will not be part of any deal that excludes agriculture.
MARCH 15, 2010: Trade unions from across the Pacfic have called for a fairer trade agreement network today, fearing the possible outcomes of an 'everything on the table' agreement. New Zealand's Council of Trade Unions has been keeping counsel with its counterparts in the US and Australia. The joint declaration of the combined TPP unions (Australia, NZ, Singapore, USA) can be read here. The individual unions, including CTU have issued their own statements.
CITIZENS AGAINST FOREIGN CONTROL OF AOTEAROA, CHRISTCHURCH, MARCH 15 2010:
Talks started in Melbourne today for the US, Australia, Peru and Vietnam to join an expanded Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP, currently comprising NZ, Chile, Brunei, and Singapore, known as the P4 Agreement), with November 2011, when the US hosts APEC, as the target to seal the deal. This will be used as the backdoor means to secure a US/NZ Free Trade Agreement. Already the Americans have said that they see this as more than a mere free trade deal but as a vehicle for broader Asia/Pacific economic integration, which has enormous political implications. Alarm bells should be loudly sounding.
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
As agricultural and farming blogs
have been quick to seize on
, the US dairy industry has come out in force on the eve of TPP negotiations. And those concerns have quickly been heard and met by a bipartisan group of 30 senators, many of whom come from the US's own dairy heartland. On March 11, they delivered a letter to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk urging that the industry is protected from New Zealand (or, more specifically, dairy co-op giant Fonterra) in any agreement between the nations. The letter itself continues below the break...
MARCH 11, 2010 (Wall Street Journal) - US dairy farmers are pleading for protection from their counterparts in New Zealand as President Barack Obama's trade negotiators begin talks on a regional agreement in Australia next week.
New Zealand accounts for nearly a quarter of global dairy exports, according to Rabobank International, a large agricultural lender. U.S. dairy farmers are concerned that increased trade with the region could result in New Zealand flooding the U.S. with cheap dairy products such as cheese and milk powder that could depress prices for U.S. producers. Logistics and cost make it unlikely New Zealand would ship fluid milk to the U.S.
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.