TPPA – More movement on customs queues than dairy exports

Press Release – New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

The Transpacific Partnership talks in Chicago are showing signs of the mounting conflicts both inside and outside the secret negotiations. Dr. Bill Rosenberg, CTU Economist, is in Chicago during this round of the TPPA negotiations.14 September 2011

TPPA – More movement on customs queues than dairy exports

The Transpacific Partnership talks in Chicago are showing signs of the mounting conflicts both inside and outside the secret negotiations. Dr. Bill Rosenberg, CTU Economist, is in Chicago during this round of the TPPA negotiations.

Bill Rosenberg has noted that New Zealand’s chief negotiator Mark Sinclair deflected a question about progress in opening up meaningful access for dairy products at a stakeholder briefing on Sunday (Monday New Zealand time) by saying “the name of the game was different” and was now more about “supply chains” and not only about tariffs.

Bill Rosenberg says “it seems that Mark Sinclair is trying to ready the New Zealand public for news that there won’t be much more dairy access to the US market – only smoother customs procedures and the like.”

US demands on Intellectual Property Rights are among the most controversial aspects of the TPPA both inside and outside the negotiations.

Bill Rosenberg said “not only are they likely to push up medicine prices but they will attempt to extend copyright and patent protection far beyond what academic experts say the evidence shows is justifiable.”

Australia has said it will not accept US demands for its investors to be able to sue governments if their profits are threatened by government measures and this power has been repeatedly condemned by health advocates, unions, environmentalists and many others.

“Like many others, we are concerned that despite its dangers the New Zealand government has refused to take it off the table,” said Bill Rosenberg.

A further partial round of talks, on only parts of the proposed agreement, is likely in December in order to try to keep it moving, but the reality is that the US will not want to offer such a controversial agreement to Congress during the 2012 election year. The earliest date for signing is therefore 2013.

Bill Rosenberg says that by then, public opposition is likely to be even greater.

Further information on the Transpacific Partnership talks in Chicago:

• US demands on Intellectual Property Rights – which in other US FTAs have led to huge increases in medicine prices – are being tabled this week, too late for proper discussion in Chicago. They are among the most controversial aspects of the TPPA both inside and outside the negotiations. Not only are they likely to push up medicine prices but they will attempt to extend copyright and patent protection far beyond what academic experts say the evidence shows is justifiable. In a presentation to negotiators, James Boyle, Professor of Law at Duke University, speaking on the basis of leaked text, stated that not one economic study of such extensions showed any benefit in economic terms or in stimulating innovation and in fact locked out some benefits such as public access to books by authors who have long since died. A declaration by over 180 experts from 35 countries released during the talks made similar points. Stringent enforcement of copyright on the internet, highly controversial in New Zealand and recently partly defeated in the ACTA treaty is also likely to be on the table.

• Negotiators on the chapter on Labour have spent some 18 months talking mostly in generalities without the US proposal which is going to be the real starting point for serious negotiations. The US offering is expected to be a significant challenge to the current positions of all countries other than Peru which already has a similar chapter in its FTA with the US. Despite many expectations that the US would at last table the text in Chicago, the US Trade Representative’s Office is now saying its current goal is to table it at the next round in Lima, Peru. Some negotiators have been looking closely at a model chapter drafted by unions based on the US-Peru FTA.

• The US government itself appears to be split on the issue of State Owned Enterprises and while it is intending to table a proposal has yet to do so. It could restrict SOE activities and the government support for them at home – which would stop them serving the non-commercial social and public interest purposes of many New Zealand SOEs – or test their investments and sales abroad to determine whether it had any government support. Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia could also find such provisions very threatening, and the US would have problems at home with its own SOEs such as the Post Office, and many other federal and state entities. New Zealand’s chief negotiator says New Zealand “has no problem in principle” about such provisions, but “the devil is in the detail”.

• After presentations to them by non-governmental organisations, negotiators from developing countries showed strong concern at the cramping effect of the proposed agreement on their ability to avoid and manage through financial crises. The threats come in investment and financial services provisions the US uses as standard in its FTAs.

• The original deadline given by governments for the TPPA to be completed in time for signing at an APEC leaders meeting in Honolulu in November is not going to be met, and negotiators are going to find it difficult to draft even a “broad outline” which Ministers have demanded that goes beyond meaningless diplomatic generalities.

ENDS

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