Watkins on TPP

December 1st, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

at Stuff writes:

A large group of US senators and members of the House of Representatives have already written to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk opposing any moves to open US dairy markets to New Zealand. We know from bitter experience the strength of the US lobby against increased agricultural access.

If there is no dairy access, I think there is no deal. The danger is that either there are loopholes which allow the US to keep blocking free and fairy dairy access to their consumers – or that the US Congress doesn’t ratify the agreement.

As an example of just how far it could reach into daily life, our librarians have joined groups questioning the deal, because of concerns changes to copyright law will push up the cost of buying books.

There is widespread concern, meanwhile, both in the business and web communities, about intellectual property clauses.

Governments tinker in that area at their peril: think back to widespread protests against section 92 copyright law changes that would have seen users have their internet connections cut for taking free downloads of music and movies. The Government was eventually forced to rewrite the law.

This is right on the mark. The concerns over the US proposed IP chapter are widely shared by many businesses, as well as the Internet communities and other groups such as libraries and the Royal Foundation for the Blind.

The concern is that the Government may see the IP chapter as something it can trade off for improved dairy access. So far the Government’s position has been to reject anything which would force a change of our current IP laws. I am hoping that stance remains.

The Greens argue foreign investors will have even greater rights than domestic investors and a company like Shanghai Pengxin, which is behind the contentious Crafar farms purchase, would be able to sue if the Government impinged on their operations by moving to regulate or legislate to clean up water pollution.

That’s their spin.

The Government spin, backed by Labour, is that such a clause is nothing new and is, in fact, included in the China Free Trade Agreement. It is also, as Groser reminds opponents, protection for New Zealand companies overseas from having the plug arbitrarily pulled out from under them.

It’s a pretty standard clause in most FTAs. Without such a clause, then governments can undermine the agreements with other forms of barriers. I’m not that worried over such a clause in the so long as it has the normal exemptions.

But no one is suggesting the US will demand anything as crude as scrapping Pharmac. It will instead seek the ability for either the drug companies or consumer groups to challenge and appeal its decisions.

A leaked 2004 Wikileaks cable, written by then US Embassy deputy chief of mission Dave Burnett notes that “after trying in vain for years to persuade the New Zealand government to change its restrictive pricing policies on pharmaceuticals, the drug industry is taking another tack: reaching out to patient groups with information designed to bolster their demands for cutting edge drugs”.

This is a strategy hardly unique to drug companies. They are one of thousand of groups who try to build up political pressure for the Government to spend more money on an activity.

I’d be surprised if the TPP, if completed, has anything in it which affects Pharmac.

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10 Responses to “Watkins on TPP”

  1. Paulus (2,665 comments) says:

    Having worked for an American company I can assure anybody that Anti American practice is when somebody does it to them first.
    It must be good for US otherwise it is wrong, so to make any US agreement it must favour the US first and foremost.

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  2. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    Good post, DPF.
    Agreed – the IP and copyright areas are the aspects of most concern in this agreement. If the US tries to shut off our dairy access, then stuff them – we still have the growing markets of Asia and Russia, and I’m sure that there are markets in Africa and South America that have barely been tapped yet.

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  3. Reid (16,634 comments) says:

    President Obama geed up the negotiators by setting an informal deadline of October 2013 to seal the deal.

    Since he is by far the biggest fish in what, without the US, would look like a very small pond – TPP countries include New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Brunei, Australia and Vietnam – his setting a deadline will give the TPP some real impetus.

    It’s a shame Watkins is so profoundly ignorant she doesn’t even know that Mexico is in it, Canada and Japan have been asking to join for months and Canada will join next month.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/18/us-usa-mexico-transpacific-idUSBRE85H1LC20120618

    http://www.nzweek.com/world/mexican-president-elect-visits-canada-for-trade-travel-promotion-30898/

    As we all know TPP is the critical vehicle for the US South Pac expansion to counter China. What some don’t know is that it’s also the enabler for NAFTA, which is why Mexico and Canada are joining up. For Watkins to fail to mention this critical geopolitical factor shows profound ignorance and given she’s a journo, who is paid to do nothing else but research this kind of stuff, there’s no excuse.

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  4. tristanb (1,127 comments) says:

    Governments tinker in that area at their peril: think back to widespread protests against section 92 copyright law changes that would have seen users have their internet connections cut for taking free downloads of music and movies. The Government was eventually forced to rewrite the law.

    She doesn’t mention it was Clare Curran and Labour who initially wanted people’s internet access to be cut off. National in fact diluted it.

    The fact that the law went through with full support of Labour and National, shows they’re all a bunch of arseholes who don’t give a shit about the rights of private citizens.

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  5. hinamanu (2,352 comments) says:

    The US agricultural market is completely controlled by Monsanto.

    Police raid Amish communities to stop their dairying because it is independent.

    Milk dependents are completely demonised and raided.

    This is the lobby of Monsanto senators are paid to protect.

    The obvious fraudulent victory by GE Monsanto over prop 37 food labeling is veneer thin ludicrous

    Californians are huge health nuts and want to know to know whats going into their bodies

    The California Report: Proposition 37: Food Labeling

    http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2012/10/13/the-california-report-proposition-37-food-labeling/

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  6. annie (539 comments) says:

    We need to ensure that any treaty allows measurement of products actually allowed freely into the US, and binds our obligations to that. Otherwise we hand over our goodies, obtain permission to sell our goods in the US, and then face a firewall of specious barriers which cripple our side of the trade exchange.

    And we need to defend the ability to parallel import copyrighted works – our competitiveness relies on the free,c ompetitively priced availability of information. To remove // imports would be a step back towards the dark ages of the 70’s.

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  7. Alan Johnstone (1,087 comments) says:

    It not “Royal Foundation for the Blind”, it’s “Royal Foundation of the Blind”;

    For implies it’s not created by and staffed by blind New Zealanders, which it is to a significant degree, hence “of”

    The distinction appeared to matter to staff there, a lot.

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  8. cha (4,081 comments) says:

    If there is no dairy access, I think there is no deal

    Expect the pork barrel heartland to give their dairy subsides, ya dreaming mate.

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  9. peterwn (3,308 comments) says:

    If Big Pharma is upset about Pharmac, it should be starting at home. Kaiser HMO has twice as many members as the population of NZ and AFAIK imposes tough controls on prescription habits of its doctors.

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  10. orewa1 (410 comments) says:

    In my books New Zealand’s statehood and the integrity of our legal system trump some questionable access for dairy products. Lets keep our focus on Asia. The xenophobic, isolationist Americans can do their own thing – their world domination is in the past.

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