Herald on TPP talks

October 8th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

New Zealanders will be mildly amused that their Prime Minister has stepped into the breach left by US President Barack Obama’s inability to be at Bali this week to chair an important meeting of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. But we can be proud, too, that New Zealand still has a leading role in this project. …

It would be easy for such an ambitious project to become unwieldy and lose focus as more countries join the talks. There is always the risk that late-comers are joining the talks for the sake of appearances rather than with a serious intent.

But the last to join, Japan, seems serious. In fact its reformist Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, may be the leader keenest to have something definite agreed by the end of this year. That goal, set by President Obama, should concentrate the minds of the meeting that it falls to to chair.

If Japan agrees to a phasing out of agricultural tariffs, that would be huge.

But if it can lower barriers to our exports, New Zealand may have to make concessions in other areas. Since trade negotiations typically proceed in secrecy so that positions are not solidified by political pressure, the possible concessions can arouse fearful speculative opposition.

Opponents of in New Zealand fear the Government will have to compromise on pharmaceutical purchasing, forcing Pharmac to buy prescription drugs on terms dictated by suppliers, particularly in the United States. More generally, opponents warn that the foreign companies will be able to claim damages in international courts against any Government decision that harms their investment here.

The other area of potential concern is around the US proposed intellectual property chapter. It has provisions in it such as extending copyright from life plus 50 years to life plus 70 years. I think life plus 20 is more than enough personally.

To date the NZ Government position has been to reject clauses that would require a change to our existing IP laws. I hope that position continues. There can be economic costs to having overly restrictive IP laws – as Australia has calculated.


5 Responses to “Herald on TPP talks”

  1. Bovver (174 comments) says:

    There is probably no need to worry as Americans will never ratify it due to their completely dysfunctional Congress and Senate.

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  2. UglyTruth (7,220 comments) says:

    Well, one of the most important things to understand is it’s not really mainly about trade. I guess the way to think about it is as a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade. The other 24 chapters either handcuff our domestic governments, limiting food safety, environmental standards, financial regulation, energy and climate policy, or establishing new powers for corporations.

    And then there’s a whole set of very worrisome issues relating to Internet freedom. Through sort of the backdoor of the copyright chapter of TPP is a whole chunk of SOPA, the Stop Online Privacy Act, that activism around the country successfully derailed a year ago. Think about all the things that would be really hard to get into effect as a corporation in public, a lot of them rejected here and in the other 11 countries, and that is what’s bundled in to the TPP. And every country would be required to change its laws domestically to meet these rules. The binding provision is, each country shall ensure the conformity of domestic laws, regulations and procedures.


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  3. Nigel Kearney (1,988 comments) says:

    Didn’t Japan insist they need to protect their farmers for ‘cultural reasons’? That doesn’t sound serious to me.

    Pharmac isn’t really defensible. Of course we would like to continue having access to cheap medication by freeloading off US consumers on the research and development cost. And the US would like to protect their farmers with tariffs and subsidies. But these are exactly the sort of things you have to give up if you are really serious about trading freely and fairly.

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  4. Fentex (3,315 comments) says:

    Pharmac isn’t really defensible.

    It certainly is. Pharmac does not compel anyone to do business and if it’s offers were inadequate they could be refused. Our choice to combine our medical purchasing so as to improve our small populations ability to bargain is a simple exploitation of a benefit in cooperation.

    Demands that people not unite so as to be exploitable as divided individuals is not a brave world of competition but an abusive assault on freedom of association and cooperation.

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  5. Fentex (3,315 comments) says:

    [TPPP] …it’s not really mainly about trade

    Quite right, and it’s unlikely that a deal so immersed in non-trade issues supported by large actors will grant sufficient benefits to minnows like NZ worth the sacrifices it would demand of us to satisfy them.

    We’re selling our primary produce now, it doesn’t help us that much to have some small portions of more markets for them opened up if we have to sacrifice our future in modern industries to the wealth of multi-national corporations. We need room to grow in new technologies more than some expansion of markets for our already successful primary production.

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