Trade Me has joined 31 consumer and lobby groups from New Zealand and overseas in writing to Trade Minister Tim Groser to voice concerns about the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.
The company is a member of the New Zealand-born umbrella group the Fair Deal Coalition, which was set up last year during the Auckland round of the negotiations to lobby against possible provisions in the yet-to-be-completed trade agreement.
The coalition fears the trade agreement could unduly strengthen intellectual property rights, for example by extending copyright by 20 years and introducing new controls on parallel imports. …
In its letter, the coalition asked Groser to reflect on the “variety of sectors” that stood to be adversely affected by such provisions. “As a group we are diverse, but we share one thing in common: we seek appropriately balanced intellectual property laws,” it said.
Trade Me spokesman Paul Ford said the firm backed the coalition because it was concerned the agreement could “result in a crappy deal for both Kiwi consumers and a decent chunk of the Trade Me community”.
“We reckon parallel importing is pretty important to New Zealanders as it means Kiwi sellers can source goods direct from licensed suppliers around the globe, so buyers get more choice and, with any luck, better prices too,” he said.
The Fair Deal Coalition has attracted support from advocates in six of the 12 countries which are party to the trade negotiations, including the United States, Canada and Australia.
The group’s founders include Consumer NZ, InternetNZ, the Royal NZ Foundation for the Blind and the Telecommunications Users Association.
I’m one of those involved in the Fair Deal coalition, and it is great to see it gain supporters in the major countries involved in the TPP.
I’m all for free trade deals, but that doesn’t mean I want a deal at any price, and I think the proposed US chapter on intellectual property is not balanced or a fair deal. I think the current NZ intellectual property laws are relatively well balanced and we should not agree to anything that would force a change to them. If enough countries stand firm on these issues, I am hopeful the US will modify its position. And to be fair to the US, they have already moved a considerable way by agreeing to writing exceptions to copyright restrictions into the text – a first for a free trade deal with them. But the current proposed wording is still not suitable.
Consumer NZ spokesman Hadyn Green said his group believed the trade deal’s documents had provisions “which may remove parallel importing in New Zealand”. That would mean retailers could no longer import copyright goods, from software to branded clothes, without the permission of the manufacturer, which Consumer NZ feared would push up prices for many products.
Bans on parallel importing work against free trade, and should not be in FTA.
A Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry spokeswoman said last week that the parallel importing of copyright works had been raised in negotiations but there was no consensus among the negotiating parties on whether an agreement “should include specific provisions on this issue”.
Which hopefully means it won’t include such a provision.