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.
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.
30 AUGUST 2010: Inside US Trade reports that while TPP members discussed complex and concrete proposals on how to structure market access agreements in any final agreement, there were seversal unresolved points at the end of a two day 'intersessional' meeting in Peru.
Sources said negotiators could not agree on how past market access schedules in previous FTA's would relate to any new schedules, or how to structure the market access talks for the TPP itself - and that these are being treated as two interrelated issues.
It is understood that the US presently favours keeping pre-negotiated market access schedules unaltered, while Australia (whose existing market access arrangements with the US exclude key products such as sugar) is arguing in favour of 'opening up' the schedules for future concessions. However the USTR disputes this interpretation, responding that talkd have been more 'nuanced'.
Proposals discussed in terms of structuring market access have included the idea of negotiating a single market access schedule while leaving scope for bilateral outcomes alongside it. Both Malaysia and Canada were present at the intersessional for bilateral talks with TPP members, but did not formally participate in the market access talks. Canada is set to meet US trade representatives on the weekend of September 6 for more expansive talks. Both the US and NZ have expressed misgivings about Canada failing to offer sufficient dairy market access and its agricultural supply management system, should it join the talks.
Meanwhile, members of the TPP business coalition in the US are preparing revised papers for the office of the USTR ahead of the third round of talks in Brunei, with a focus on hotly-debated areas such as regulatory coherence.
5 JULY 2010: Inside US Trade has reported that TPP negotiators will meet in Peru in August to attempt to sort out the architecture of market access schedules. The market access structure will apply to goods, textiles, and agriculture. However, all parties have now agreed to have one set of rules on services, investment, sanitary and phytosanitary rules, technical barriers to trade, government procurement, and IP rules.
Officials have also clarified that previous FTAs within the TPP membership will co-exist alongside any new TPP arrangement. This means that if the TPP were to contain higher standard or more demanding requirements, this would be implemented while existing obligations would be maintained. There will be specific negotiations where an existing FTA and a TPP come into direct conflict.
Ahead of the third round of formal negotiations in October, at which parties are hoping to table draft chapters of the TPP text itself, a source has suggested that some topics, including government procurement and rules of origin, may have specific elements tailored to assist small-to-medium sized enterprises. Making the agreement of more value to these enterprises was one of the main focuses of the San Francisco meeting last month.
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.
5 APRIL 2010 - Alejandra Alayza, coordinator of the Pervian Network for Globalisation with Equity (RedGE) has written a piece on diariolaprimeraperu in which there is a little speculation on what exactly a TPP agreement between the US and Peru could offer in the way of new deals and bargaining - and if so, how onerous those new requirements may be. The original piece is in Spanish, but an English translation follows below the break.
26 MARCH 2010 - La Republica and IPS report that a former Peruvian Deputy Minister of Labour, Julio Gamero, has warned that the large number of trade agreeements Peru has signed in the past year, as well as the impending negotiations in the TPP, may be having a negative impact on labour rights.
Gamero warned IPS that over the past three years, the number of collective bargaining agreements, health and safety inspections, and unionised members of the workforce has fallen dramatically. He is critical of the government's response, saying that it was not until a US delegation on labour issues visited Lima that a liaison office between government and unions was created. Coordinator for the Peruvian Network for Globalisation with Equity (RedGE), Alejandra Alayza, says it is essential to guarantee labour rights in any further agreements so that workers may share in the benefits.
The IPS article, which follows below, also looks at the effect of tariff-lowering on peasant farmers, as well as the TPA with the United States's impact on indigenous forestry rights and intellectual property.
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