The TPP IP chapter

The Herald reports:

Secret details of the United States-Pacific trade agreement have been leaked showing New Zealand in serious dispute with US negotiators on many issues.

These include internet freedom, access to affordable medicines, protection of New Zealand industrial innovation and ownership of native plants and animals.

After 3 years of intense negotiation and with political calls for an agreement by Christmas, New Zealand and the US are still far apart in key areas.

The UK-based WikiLeaks organisation has obtained the crucial “intellectual property” chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and released it exclusively to the Herald and Mexican, Chilean, US and Australian media.

Ha, not sure how exclusive it is. The text is on the Wikileaks website here.

The 95-page draft includes some of the agreement’s most contentious issues, such as copyright, patent and pharmaceutical rules.

It contains more than 250 references to New Zealand supporting or opposing particular clauses. In about 60 cases, New Zealand supports the US position. But in most cases the US and New Zealand are opposed to each other’s proposals, usually with several other countries agreeing with New Zealand.

It’s good to see NZ negotiators sticking to the NZ position of not agreeing to any changes that would require a change in NZ intellectual property laws. That may change of course as ultimately an agreement involves compromise, but who has to compromise often comes down to where the majority of countries are, and the fact several other countries back the NZ position is good.

The Creative Freedom Foundation met the NZ Chief Negotiator last week, and have a good blog post on some of the issues. The issue NZ may be weakest on is opposing an extension of term of copyright from Life+50 to Life+70. Personally I think it should be no more than Life+20.

Angela Strahl, who is handling the IP chapter, stated that NZ’s Parallel Importing abilities are likely to stay unchanged, as is the ability to set our own limitations and exceptions to our domestic Copyright law. However, it was strongly hinted at that an extension of our Copyright Term is inevitable.

As Walker put it: only three of the twelve countries involved in the negotiations currently have a Life + 50 copyright term (NZ, Canada, and Japan); no-one has signed a trade agreement with the US that hasn’t included at least a Life + 70 year copyright term; and if you were to place a bet on what way NZ was going to go, those are some pretty big odds.

The term of copyright is less important to me than maintaining parallel importing and being able to set our own limits and exceptions to copyright. If we have to compromise on something in the IP chapter, I guess that is the least bad option arguably. But I hope enough other countries support the NZ position and we can hold firm. The idea of copyright is to encourage innovation. Life + 70 in no ways encourages innovation more than Life + 50. And as the CFF say, has detrimental effects.

Back to the Herald story:

A large section reveals the battle between the US pharmaceutical lobby and countries such as New Zealand that want to continue to buy cheaper generic medicines. The US negotiators have inserted several pages of measures to help maintain and extend the dominant position of big pharmaceutical companies. Only the US supported these proposals while Australia, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei opposed them in full.


The NZ negotiators are doing good work according to the leaked text. May they keep it up.

And I just have to respond to this piece of nonsense from Phil Goff:

The debate over the negotiations should have been revealed by the Government and not left to be exposed by Wikileaks says Labour’s Trade spokesperson, Phil Goff.

Goff is being malicious here. Goff is a former Trade Minister. He of all people knows that the NZ Government would be kicked out of the TPP and never allowed into any trade negotiation again if it unilaterally released the text. I can accept this sort of hysteria from Jane Kelsey, but again Goff knows what he is saying is bullshit. Never in 10,000 years would he as Trade Minister do what he is now calling on this Government to do.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think there should be more transparency, and that at suitable intervals draft texts should be released. But this is not a decision NZ can make by itself. It’s like declaring that the one member of the UN Security Council can make decisions on behalf of the other 15.

It is good and noble to call for more transparency. It is an act of partisan fuckwittery to demand that the Government unilaterally release the text. Goff knows this. I do agree with him in one area though:

“In all trade negotiations parties make demands that they don’t expect to be accepted. All negotiations inevitably involve compromises. But New Zealand negotiators should remain staunch in their opposition to demands in the intellectual property area which appear to favour vested interest groups in one country to the disadvantage of others,” Phil Goff said.

That I agree with.

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