CATO on TPP

March 4th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Cato Institute is a libertarian free market think tank in the US that is very pro free trade.

However they have string reservations around the TPP, specifically the intellectual property chapter. The fact these come from normal champions of free trade agreements makes them harder to rebut.

They have a webinar on the TPP on Thursday morning for those interested.

The blurb is:

 Intellectual property has been a focus of U.S. trade policy for many decades, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations include an especially ambitious effort by the United States to strengthen international intellectual property laws. At the same time, however, there is serious debate within the United States over the proper scope and level of intellectual property protection. Is it in the interests of the United States to seek to harmonize intellectual property rules around the world, or is the U.S. position overly influenced by special interests hoping to export bad policy abroad and to lock it in at home? Come hear our panel of experts discuss why trade agreements cover intellectual property law, whose interests are served, and what, if anything, should be done about it.

Hopefully the NZ negotiators will maintain their position of opposition to the proposed US text for the intellectual property chapter.

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Local body politicians who aren’t focused on their city or region

February 28th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Manawatu Standard reports:

Palmerston North’s voice will be added to calls for New Zealanders to be told what is in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, amid fears it will allow multi-national companies to bully local and national governments.

The city council yesterday received a deputation led by Sue Pugmire and Warwick Smith asking for it to urge Prime Minister John Key to drop the veil of secrecy surrounding the agreement.

Such a key issue for the Palmerston North City Council.

The exception was Cr Leonie Hapeta, who said she did not believe local government should get involved in a central government process.

She was the dissenting voice in a 15-1 vote.

In passing its resolution, the council joined Auckland, Nelson and Greater Wellington in calling on the Government to reveal the content of the proposed agreement.

Horizons Regional Council was to consider a similar proposal today.

Pathetic politicians, trying to make themselves feel important.

As I have said many times before, the Government is unable to unilaterally reveal the contents. To do so would see it expelled from the agreement, and never allowed into any other trade negotiation again.

Where were these moronic City Councilors when the China FTA was being negotiated? Did they demand that text be released? Of course not. It’s different when Labour does it.

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Smellie on TPP

February 16th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Patrick Smellie writes 10 things he says TPP opponents don’t want you to grasp:

  1. The secrecy surrounding TPP negotiations is typical of any such exercise.
  2. The bogey of corporations being able to sue governments is not only overblown, but corporations can do that now, without a TPP.
  3. Corporations might try to sue but they’ll be whistling if the government is acting in the public interest.
  4. United States corporate interests are obviously among those seeking influence on the TPP agenda, but that doesn’t mean the US Senate and Congress are on board.
  5. US politicians know less about what’s in the TPP negotiating documents than US corporate lobbies.
  6. No-one knows what the TPP could be worth to the New Zealand economy
  7. The US on the backfoot on many of the most contentious issues
  8. This is the end of Pharmac. Balderdash.
  9. The deal will be done behind closed doors. It can’t be. Every Parliament of every country involved will have to ratify any deal signed by leaders.
  10. There’s no guarantee TPP will come in to land.

It is quite legitimate to oppose some of the things that the US (especially) is asking for in the TPP, I am strongly opposed to many of their proposals for the intellectual property chapter. But there is a difference between opposing some of what the US is asking for, and demonising the TPP negotiations as a whole.

Matthew Hooton makes a similiar point in his Cunliffe’s Four Fails:

Mr Cunliffe’s fourth fail was over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) about which Labour has been fully briefed by the government, through Mr Goff.

Pandering to the Greens, Labour’s radicalised membership and Auckland anti-globalisation activist Jane Kelsey, Mr Cunliffe called for the TPP negotiating text to be released.

The good news is that Mr Cunliffe accepts this can’t happen while negotiations are under way and that the text should remain secret until it is finalised.

He says, however, it should be released two weeks before it is “signed.”

It is difficult to know what Mr Cunliffe – who claims, implausibly, to be “a former New Zealand trade negotiator who worked on the GATT negotiations and bilateral trade agreements” and to have “represented the New Zealand dairy industry overseas in many markets and on many occasions” – even means.

He cannot seriously be proposing that New Zealand unilaterally release the text without the agreement of the other parties.  That would see New Zealand excluded from all further international negotiations on any topic.

He must also know there is no two-week gap between a treaty being “finalised” and it being “signed.”  At trade minister level, they are the same thing.

Trade agreements are negotiated under the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.  When trade ministers do reach agreement, there is seldom even a formal signing ceremony.  Instead, the agreed text is released as part of a communiqué and each country then decides if and when it will ratify it.

For the TPP, the US Congress has not granted President Obama fast-track negotiating authority, reserving the right to re-litigate each clause.  The text will be debated in detail in our parliament and media.  While the cabinet holds the formal ratification power, Parliament retains the right to legislate over the top of it.

 It could be a long time – even years, if other TPP countries have difficulty ratifying the deal – between a final TPP text being publicly released by trade ministers and it ever being finalised and ratified to come into force.

If he really ever were a trade negotiator, Mr Cunliffe would surely know this.

Matthew is a former press secretary to a Minister of Trade Negotiations.

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Goff on TPP

December 11th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand would benefit more than most countries from a concluded Trans Pacific Partnership deal, former Labour trade minister Phil Goff told the Herald last night.

“We have the least barriers and therefore we have the least we have to give away,” he said. “Other countries have to give away much more.

“While there are all sorts of problems involved in this negotiation, you have to look at the wider picture and the wider picture is that each country will benefit from a successful conclusion to it but New Zealand will benefit more than most.”

It’s great to have Phil Goff say this, but once again Labour is the yeah, nah party.

On union demands they say yeah to the unions and then tell employers nah, don’t worry.

On oil Shane Jones says yeah all for it, and Moana Mackey says Labour is against off shore drilling.

On TPP Phil Goff says it will be beneficial for NZ, while other MPs such as Twyford organise protests against it.

This is Labour standing for nothing, and trying to be all things to all people.

Mr Goff made his comments just before Trade Ministers from the 12 countries negotiating the TPP ended four days of intense talks in Singapore in a bid to resolve the toughest issues.

New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser is thought to have played a central role in the talks, having been a professional trade negotiator and diplomat before entering politics.

Groser is excellent in these forums.

Mr Goff said opponents of the TPP were seeing the talks through their particular lens “and they are highlighting worst-case scenarios” and he was not criticising them.

“It’s unlikely we will get to a worst- case scenario and if it was a worst- case scenario, it is unlikely that we would agree to it.”

Exactly. I don’t like a lot of the stuff the US is proposing – but it is only a proposal. The leaked documents have shown that in fact the NZ Government is doing a great job in resisting any provisions that are bad for NZ.

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Cato on the TPP

November 27th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank – the largest one in the United States. They are huge supporters of free markets and free trade. So with that in mind this article by Bill Watson on their behalf is worth considering:

The prospects for timely completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement are looking increasingly bleak. Just as the president was struggling to secure fast track trade negotiating authority from Congress, a barrage of anti-TPP sentiment erupted last week when WikiLeaks published a classified draft text of the agreement’s intellectual property rules. The text was rightly criticized for enabling Hollywood and other industries to improperly influence U.S. and foreign law in their favor.

The first instinct of trade advocates is to be defensive, but this time the criticism actually offers an excellent opportunity: Instead of mumbling unconvincingly about the political power of innovative U.S. industries, free traders should put their collective foot down and demand a stop. Imposing intellectual property rules through trade agreements has become a political liability that serves special interests at the expense of free trade.

I agree. Some of the provisions in the chapter are aimed at preventing free trade, and restricting parallel importing.

Getting intellectual property out of the TPP would increase the agreement’s ability to open markets, improve its chances for passage in Congress, and bring the negotiations back to what they ought to be about in the first place: lowering protectionist trade barriers.

Hear, hear.

Despite being tightly wedded in the U.S. trade agenda for the last 20 years, trade policy and intellectual property policy don’t fit together very well. Trade agreements are useful because they provide an effective but imperfect way to improve U.S. trade policy. By offsetting the political power of protectionist industries with the political power of exporting industries, trade agreements offer the promise of open markets at home and abroad.

But this model doesn’t make any sense for intellectual property laws. Unlike tariff reductions, extending intellectual property rights in foreign markets does not directly benefit foreign consumers. At the same time, there is the potential for harm to U.S. consumers when international obligations make domestic intellectual property laws harder to reform or, in some cases, stricter than they would be otherwise. Using trade negotiations to set patent and copyright policy gives excessive power to industry without any justification.

All good points.

Global rules already exist that prevent piracy or severe regulatory differences. The World Trade Organization imposes minimum standards for patent copyright protection and prohibits discrimination. Intellectual property rules in the TPP, on the other hand, are about things like extending copyright terms from really long to really, really long. Getting Canada to impose a longer copyright term may benefit Disney, but that shouldn’t be a goal of U.S. economic relations.

WIPO treaties are where changes to international intellectual property laws should occur.

You don’t have to oppose stronger intellectual property laws to recognize that they reduce the value of trade agreements. The United States is expending a significant amount of negotiating capital to secure patent and copyright rules at the behest of a narrow set of industries. As the leaked text reveals, U.S. proposals are facing coordinated opposition from most, and sometimes all, TPP partners. What other negotiating goals have had to be sacrificed in order to push these unpopular rules through?

There could well be an agreement by now, if it were not for the IP chapter.

U.S. negotiators can accomplish more in other areas if they stop fighting for detailed intellectual property provisions. Hollywood and biotech are not the only industries hoping that the TPP will secure foreign markets for them. The American dairy industry, for instance, doesn’t benefit if negotiators give New Zealand a pass on milk barriers in order to secure concessions on medical procedure patents. More importantly, consumers in New Zealand don’t benefit either.

Not sure what milk barriers they men – I presume Fonterra?

Most proponents of the TPP wrongly claim that we must have intellectual property in agreements to get enough political support. That may have been true in the past, but times have changed. U.S. negotiators would do well to remember how the Stop Online Piracy Act crashed so dramatically after internet activists got popular opposition to go viral. Good news about how the TPP lowers regulatory barriers for financial service firms operating in Asia is not going to assuage the online masses who think you’re coming to kill the internet.

A common criticism of the TPP has been that the agreement is not really about free trade. It’s time to fix that and remove intellectual property negotiations from the TPP.

Sadly I don’t think the US Government will change its policy.

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The TPP IP chapter

November 14th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

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.

Good.

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 TPP 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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TPP and other fights at Labour’s conference

November 1st, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour’s affiliated unions have a role in the latest battle and are deeply suspicious of the TPP, as are a group in the caucus including former deputy leader Grant Robertson and Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford.

The other group, championed by former Trade Minister Phil Goff, is willing to put greater faith in the upsides of TPP.

Labour’s TPP sceptics were bolstered by the passage of a remit at the Council of Trade Unions conference last month which simply stated: “That this conference opposes the Tran-Pacific Partnership Agreement.”

It was passed unanimously, with no speeches in opposition.

What is sad about this, is they are saying they are opposed to the TPP, regardless of what is in it!!

I have concerns over some of what US is asking for, but to declare outright opposition to the TPP regardless of what is finally agreed is ridiculous. To date the New Zealand negotiators have actually done a very good job in staying firm on issues such as intellectual property laws, with NZ’s position being not to agree to any provisions that would require a change in current NZ laws. I support them in this, and hope that position does not change.

The most intense debate on TPP is likely to occur when delegates talk about the Policy Platform – a new document of principles and values with which specific policy must be compatible.

The proposed wording on trade deals says: “We will only support trade agreements that protect New Zealand’s sovereign right to make law and regulations as we see fit.”

One of the questions is whether that means the party could not support a deal that reduced in any way New Zealand’s sovereign right to make law or whether it leaves wiggle room. It has been suggested that there may be amendments put in to toughen it up.

Mr Goff acknowledges the well-accepted precept that trade deals – along with every other international agreement – always reduce a country’s sovereignty.

“Not just trade negotiations but any international agreement we sign up to, including the International Convention on the Protection of Civil and Political Rights that removes our sovereign right to persecute people [and] the Convention Against Torture, which removes our sovereign right to torture people. There are a whole lot of things that involve the surrender of our sovereignty that every delegate at the party conference would actually approve.” 

Well done Phil Goff for explaining this point so rationally. Every single international agreement we sign up to, involves a reduction of sovereignty. We’ve agreed not to pursue mining in Antarctica, we’ve agreed not to pass a law allowing torture, we’ve agreed to not impose tariffs outside the WTO rules, we’ve agreed to comply with some international labour standards etc.

Anyone who opposes a trade deal on the basis that it may lead to a loss of sovereignty is being duplicitous or stupid. All international agreements are about countries agreeing to limit what they will or will not do. So the draft Labour Party platform would rule out every single trade deal ever negotiated.

You can of course withdraw from an international agreement, so a country still has final sovereignty, but there will be consequences (generally economic) if you do.

He said many people were concerned about the Australian case in which the Philip Morris tobacco company challenged – under the investor-state dispute clause of a free-trade agreement – the Government’s right to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.

He also said the Australian case was the result of poor wording in a trade deal that NZ would never let through.

New Zealand has a good track record of negotiating agreements that have non-discrimination provisions, but still allow Governments to legislate on domestic issues such as plain packaging.

Mr Goff said he had been briefed by New Zealand’s chief TPP negotiator, David Walker, with the approval of Trade Minister Tim Groser, and he felt confident that New Zealand was fighting hard on core issues that, had there been a Labour Government, would have been the same.

“My understanding of what New Zealand’s position will be on this is that we would absolutely die in a ditch to protect our right to regulate or legislate in the public good and that is a bottom line,” Mr Goff said.

Kudos to Goff for saying this.

He will be its chief advocate at the party conference, but is not confident he will win the debate.

“I really don’t know, because delegates will have been exposed to all of the concerns about TPP but not about the advantages of it. That creates a challenge.”

Labour have turned their back on other areas that used to be bi-partisan such as Reserve Bank independence, so I’m expecting they will do the same here and vote against free trade (their draft policy platform would mean they couldn’t even support the China Free Trade Agreement they signed). However I also expect Labour to claim the outcome will mean different things to difference audiences They will tell the unions they are against the TPP and tell farmers they are for it.

Dr Damien Rogers writes on this issue:

A more immediate obstacle is the Labour Party’s Annual Conference in Christchurch this weekend, which presents Cunliffe with his first major set-piece opportunity as leader to communicate directly with the party faithful and, indirectly, to all potential voters. Repeating his recent performance at the Conference of Trade Unions – where a rabble-rousing oration to union “comrades” was hopelessly compromised when he conveyed contrary messages to the media waiting outside – is unlikely to suffice. Cunliffe’s politics of appeasing Labour’s special interest groups by separately telling each what they want to hear, but without engaging directly with the major challenges of the day, will be hard to maintain with his credibility intact.

So my prediction in line with this is the policy platform against free trade will go through with little or no changes, but Labour will try and make it sound like they are both for and against the TPP!

Also on the issue of the conference, Stuff provides this list of burning issues for the delegates:

  • Maori language made compulsory in state schools and teachers required to be competent in te reo
  • Privatised state assets renationalised with compensation based on “proven need”
  • The Government’s roads of national significance project dumped and the funds put into public transport
  • Teaching of civics and democracy mandatory for all school children
  • Laws to discourage excessive alcohol consumption, a review of the purchasing age, alcohol availability and an increase in the price of booze
  • Prisoners again getting the right to vote
  • A national sex and sexuality education programme dealing with sexual diseases, contraception methods, consent, sexual orientation and gender identity
  • New Zealand becoming a republic
  • An apology for the Foreshore and Seabed Act passed in 2004
  • A prohibition on school boards of trustees restricting same-sex partners from attending school balls
  • A Pasifika television station
  • A Maori language newspaper

Someone should move an amendment to the Foreshore and Seabed apology remit, including the details that the apology must be done in person by Helen Clark and Margaret Wilson!

Heh, Chris Finalyson is urging Labour delegates to vote for the remit:

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson has encouraged delegates to support the rank-and-file conference remit that the Labour Party’s leadership apologise for passing the Foreshore and Seabed Act while in government under Helen Clark.

“I am glad that almost a decade after passing this shameful piece of legislation, which denied access to the courts to people based on race, the Labour Party is ready to discuss an apology,” Mr Finlayson said. …

“I would suggest that the Labour leadership also apologise for their the party’s abysmal treatment of Tariana Turia because of her principled stand over the issue,” he said.

“While they are at it, they should apologise for the way Helen Clark called Dr Pita Sharples, a man who has devoted his life to improving Māori educational achievement, a ‘hater and a wrecker’.”

“They should apologise that Ms Clark deliberately snubbed the 35,000 New Zealanders who made a hikoi to Parliament to protest that discriminatory legislation, preferring to pose for a photo opportunity with Shrek the sheep.”

I recall that hikoi. Snubbing it to meet a sheep probably cost Labour tens of thousands of votes.

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Goff vs Cunliffe on trade

October 8th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports:

Labour’s trade spokesman and a former Trade Minister Phil Goff says he understands why the Government is not releasing text of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement but says it could be doing more to communicate with New Zealanders.

His position is more moderate than that of new Labour leader David Cunliffe, a former diplomat, who called on the Government to release the draft text on his first day in the job. …

Asked for a response to the online campaign by some New Zealand celebrities to release draft text of the TPP, Mr Goff said that would probably not be possible.

The 12 parties would have an agreement that the text could not be revealed.

“You probably can’t breach that agreement but what you can do and what the Government hasn’t done is broadly spell out its negotiating position,” he told the Herald.

Goff is playing this straight, while Cunliffe has been talking nonsense on this (and he knows it as a former diplomat). I’m all for more openness in some of our treaty or trade negotiations, but it is simply impossible to unilaterally release a negotiating text. You’d be effectively expelled from the negotiation.

All countries need to agree to to release a text. New Zealand has no authority to release a draft text. At the beginning of negotiations, it is agreed whether drafts will be released or not, and the international default is they are not. If you do not have agreement from other countries to release a draft text, and you do it anyway, then they’ll never trust you again. You won’t be allowed into any negotiations more significant than the protection of small snails convention.

Personally it would be good if there had been agreement when the talks began (under Labour) for draft texts to be released at certain stages. But you can’t unilaterally change or ignore the rules later on.

What is a worry is that Cunliffe knows this beyond any doubt. He has been a trade negotiator (according to his CV). When he called for NZ to release the draft text, he knew absolutely that it was impossible and if NZ did so, they’d be effectively expelled from the negotiations.

I’m glad to see Phil Goff is not acting so irresponsibly.

But what will Cunliffe think of Goff contradicting him? If Goff the one MP that has yet to swear loyalty to Cunliffe and Cunliffe has pledged to expel from party membership if he doesn’t get it? It’s probably Mallard, but might not be.

Personally I think Goff should pledge to be just as loyal to Cunliffe as Cunliffe was to him. How could he complain about that as a loyalty pledge? :-)

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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 John Key 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 TPP 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.

 

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Key subs for Obama

October 7th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports:

Prime Minister John Key will replace US President Barack Obama as chairman of a top-level meeting in Bali this week.

On Friday afternoon, Obama cancelled his trip to the leaders’ summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum on the island because of the American Budget crisis that has resulted in about 800,000 Government workers not being paid.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will represent Obama at the summit, and at the Trans Pacific Partnership meeting on the sidelines.

NZ Trade Minister Tim Groser said it was decided yesterday that Key should chair the meeting of the 12 countries negotiating the TPP agreement.

The 12 countries are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Their combined GDP is around US$25.4 trillion.

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Goff on TPP

September 28th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes in NZ Herald:

Labour’s Phil Goff is back in business, adding his strong and rational voice to New Zealand’s advocacy for the completion of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Goff wants to see a renewed focus on the upside for New Zealand from achieving greater access to some of the Asia-Pacific’s economic powerhouses through a deal which will link 12 nations.

To Goff trade is New Zealand’s lifeblood.

He reckons the Labour Party has to become focused on economic growth, jobs and tax revenue – “You can’t legislate for revenue.”

Or wages!

The challenge for Labour is to interpret trade policy around its own core values. “There are huge advantages from being involved with TPP and even bigger disadvantages of being locked out. But there are defensive issues where we need to fight tooth and nail to protect interests.”

Such as intellectual property laws

Goff has had the shadow trade portfolio only since Monday but already he is signalling that the bilateral consensus that has sustained New Zealand’s international reputation for nearly three decades will be continued.

Excellent.

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This could be significant

August 31st, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Nigel Stirling writes at Farmers Weekly:

The fight for open access for New Zealand farm exports into the United States has taken a big step forward, with key American agricultural lobbies giving their backing to a comprehensive Pacific Rim trade deal with no exclusions for agriculture.

Thirty-seven of the US’s peak agricultural and farming lobbies have written to their government pledging support for the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade talks, which aim to eliminate tariffs and other barriers to trade between 12 countries.

In a letter sent to new US Trade Representative Mike Froman and Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, the industry groups gave their backing to US negotiators to pursue a comprehensive deal, with no exclusions for agriculture in any country involved in the talks.

The importance of this is quite huge. If the major agricultural lobby groups do not try and block eliminating agricultural barriers and tariffs, then not only is a deal more likely, but it may actually get past the US Congress. These lobby groups have considerable sway in smaller rural states.

“There must be no product or sector exclusions, including in agriculture. Exclusions would limit opportunities in each of the member countries to reach new markets, grow business and generate economic growth and jobs,” it said.

Importantly the letter was signed by the US Dairy Export Council and the National Milk Producers Council.

Both groups have in the past been sceptical about the US joining the TPP and have highlighted the threat to American farmers from opening their domestic market to competition from NZ exports.

They may be starting to see the potential gains from having their own access to some Asian markets.

Trade Minister Tim Groser said the backing from the US dairy industry could be critical in getting a deal past American lawmakers that included agriculture and therefore was beneficial to NZ.

“The political game here is pretty obvious. The way Congress works is through these sorts of letters and people add up the number of lobbies for and add up the number against and that is the political process under way,” Groser said.

The letter was sent to US Government officials last month but came to light only last week.

I’ve been very skeptical up until now that the US might make meaningful concession on the agricultural side. This changes that.

He expected the US to have made an offer on dairy by the time TPP country leaders meet on the sidelines of APEC in Indonesia in early October.

Excellent.

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The fair deal coalition

May 22nd, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

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.

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Japan enters TPP

April 22nd, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett reports:

Japan has been allowed to enter the Trans Pacific Partnership trade talks by the 11 countries already in negotiations.

Trade Minister Tim Groser announced Japan’s entry had been agreed on from Indonesia where TPP talks were held on the sidelines of the APEC trade ministers’ meeting.

New Zealand has been cautious about Japan’s entry into the talks because of its protectionist policies and high tariffs especially in horticulture and agriculture.

Mr Groser gave New Zealand’s final approval after meeting with Japan’s Minister of Economic Revitalisation, Akira Amari who had assured him Japan was committed to a comprehensive agreement.

There are some risk with having Japan join the TPP negotiations, but also great potential benefits. They are a major trading partner for NZ, and getting a reduction in trade tariffs would be very good for New Zealand.

The US proposals for the intellectual property chapter are unacceptable, as they are not balanced enough. Our current law is pretty good (not perfect) in reflecting the balance of rights when it comes to intellectual property. I want New Zealand to maintain the stance they have had for the last two to three years on the intellectual property chapter – which is no change to domestic law.

If a TPP can be concluded with an acceptable intellectual property chapter, I’d regard that as a very good thing.

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Chalmers on TPP

December 18th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Susan Chalmers writes at the NZ Herald on the TPP:

I’m not an economist, but I do understand what a net loss or a net gain is. Most people will be familiar with the concept – at the end of the day, are you better or worse off? To figure that one out you need to know what you’ve brought in, and what you’ve paid out.

We’ve recently heard what New Zealand could bring in under the Trans Pacific Partnership – US$2.9 billion by 2025. But that figure is based on a hypothetical situation involving 21 countries, not the 11 that are negotiating. Even so, the Prime Minister recently embraced and advanced this figure.

What’s missing? Our leaders haven’t told us what the costs will be.

The biggest cost that New Zealand could sustain under the TPP would be in the intellectual property, particularly copyright. This is because the most powerful party to the negotiations – the United States – is a net exporter of copyrighted goods (movies, books, TV shows, songs, games, etc) while all other TPP parties are net importers.

The interests that drive US trade policy in copyright are Hollywood and the recording industry. They want stronger and more powerful legal rights that would bring more money to them, often at the expense of many different sectors of society and business.

I’m all for the benefits of liberalising trade with other countries. That does provide benefits. But as Susan says, we also have to be aware of the costs to New Zealand, if the TPP includes US drafted changes to our copyright laws.

The Government has rightly said that any decision on TPP will be based on whether it is a net gain to New Zealand. But again, one can only calculate a net gain if you actually calculate the costs.

Now ideally NZ holds firm and doesn’t agree to any provisions that require changes to our IP laws.

Since the Government has not run its own analysis of potential costs, perhaps we can look elsewhere for guidance. Australia is a good place to start. Like New Zealand, Australia is a net importer of copyrighted goods and wants better access to the US agricultural markets – for sugar and beef exports in particular. …

A report from the Australian Productivity Commission – the Government’s independent research and advisory body – indicated that Australia suffered a net loss under AUSFTA as a whole because of accepting the US copyright demands.

Maybe the NZ Productivity Commission could look at the the benefits to the NZ economy of balanced IP laws?

So why has our political leadership not talked about the costs of accepting the US copyright demands? For instance, the cost of paying decades more in royalties to overseas companies, losing parallel imports, not to mention all the taxpayer money to support US copyright litigation here in New Zealand.

Trade agreements are meant to liberalise trade. Banning parallel imports is putting up barriers to trade.

Regardless of the reason for our leaders not acknowledging the potential costs, it is now time to run that analysis, as any normal business would. New Zealand’s copyright negotiators have been holding the line throughout 15 TPP rounds, working to stave off these costs for the country. Let’s encourage our elected officials not only to give them some support, but to explain exactly what the country is about to commit to. Shouldn’t we know?

We should.

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A loaded poll question

December 11th, 2012 at 2:17 pm by David Farrar

Been sent a link to a poll commissioned by the First Union on the TPP. It looks like 64% oppose TPP, but look at the question:

New Zealand is currently negotiating a free trade and investment treaty with ten other countries called the Trans Pacific Partnership. As part of the negotiations, there is a proposal to allow foreign investors to sue governments in private offshore tribunals if government actions threaten their future profits. The US advocates it while Australia says it would not sign a deal with this in it. Which one of the following statements do you most agree with:

That’s such an outrageously worded question, I am surprised they didn’t get 90% opposed. There is no proposal to allow investors to sue if their “profits are threatened”. The proposal (which is in many other trade deals we have) is to sue if the government discriminates against the company based on their country. You can’t simply sue because the Govt passes a law that will harm profits.

The difference is massive. As that poll question describes the proposal, a normal respondent would imagine that there would be potentially hundreds of law suits – because many many Govt actions impact a company’s profits. In reality law suits under this provision are massively rare – one per decade maybe, because any action is restricted to whether it is discriminatory (ie would not impact local companies also).

Again, based on that question, I’d expect 90% to be against. There is a legitimate debate about investor state provisions, but this loaded question is all heat and no light.

The lesson for media should be to always look at the actual poll question asked, and don’t just go off any media release. And ask yourself if the poll question is a fair representation of the issue being debated.

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Idiots

December 9th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Siobhan Leathley at NZ Herald reports:

Police have condemned “violent” protesters who attacked two police officers and set fire to cardboard boxes as they tried to force their way into free trade negotiations.

A handful of police and SkyCity security staff were overwhelmed by more than 150 protesters, forcing the on-the-ground commander to call in reinforcements from around Auckland.

“Police staff moved in to prevent escalation and two officers were separated, attacked and kicked numerous times. Fire appliances were called to the scene to help,” police said in a statement. “Two arrests were made. One of these arrests was a female that stomped on a constables head.”

Charming. Such idiocy and violence from those protesters actually damages their cause.

I wonder how many of the 300 were on their tenth protest or more of the year?

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TPP and copyright

December 8th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A good article by Geoff Cumming at the NZ Herald:

If you think opponents of the Trans Pacific Partnership are typically anti-free trade/anti-globalisation conspiracy theorists, consider these unlikely bedfellows: librarians, software exporters, researchers, book lovers, fans of DVDs, media creatives and people who download music. The negotiations for a trade deal covering 11 Pacific nations have managed to unite these apparently unconnected sectors in alarm.

I wouldn’t say they are opponents. Some people are opposed to the TPP no matter what its form is. They often oppose all trade deals.

Other groups and individuals have concerns over potential provisions – especially those in the US written draft intellectual property chapter. To date the NZ Govt and other countries have not agreed to these, and have proposed alternative wording which would mean no change in current NZ law.

Parallel importing is in the firing line, according to the leaked draft of the US position. This could affect not just knock-off copies but our freedom to source licensed brands without the premium charged by licensees.

Trade deals are meant to liberalise trade. Restricting parallel imports is actually going in the other direction.

Apart from the damage to our Christmas shopping budgets, the Libraries Association says a ban on parallel imports would slow down access to new-release books in libraries. A longer copyright length would restrict what libraries are able to digitise. They could be prevented from overriding technological protection measures such as zone restrictions on DVDs. Users of iPhones and iPads may risk fines for “jailbreaking” devices to add non-licensed functions. Longer copyright periods would narrow the options for musicians and media creatives.

The longer copyright term proposed is especially worrying. We already have life plus 50 years. I actually think that is too long. Life + 20 years is more than adequate when you consider the purpose of copyright is to reward and incentivise creators.

Internet and copyright law specialist Rick Shera is concerned about proposals to increase powers to prosecute and hike penalties – up to US$150,000 ($180,000) per infringement.

“There have been cases in the US where housewives have been sued over [downloading] five to 10 songs,” says Shera. “You could end up with an iPod with $4 million of infringements on it, as rights holders are able to seek a multiple of the damages suffered.”

And we have seen here that the music rights body will try and claim 90 times the value of a song based on hypothetical situations.

The film and music industries, which are driving the US goals on IP, want internet service providers (ISPs) to monitor internet activity for copyright breaches at their own expense and to pass on alleged abusers’ names to rights holders, says Shera.

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen says the huge monitoring costs would be passed to consumers.

“If ISPs are required to filter stuff or block websites, it’s the consumer who pays at the end of the day. It will lead to things like deep pocket inspections [filtering] of everybody’s content which will slow down the internet and raises privacy issues. ISPs risk being sued for the behaviour of their customers – it becomes quite laughable. You get lawyers claiming to represent rights holders and demanding take-downs for content they don’t have any rights to or clients they don’t represent. It’s the kind of nonsense that only the American legal system engages in.”

I think our current law is a pretty good balance. ISPs do have to respond to requests to pass on notices to customers whom allegedly infringe. But they get their costs (in the main) reimbursed.

The devil is in the detail – and it quickly descends into terminology that only trade treaty specialists and techno geeks can decipher. Susan Chalmers is policy lead for internet NZ and spokeswoman for Fair Deal, a coalition of the interest groups. She believes that the draft US position threatens the very workings of the internet, for instance by challenging the right to store copied material, known as caching. “The internet works by making temporary copies, or ‘transient reproductions’, of data in order to transmit it from point A to point B,” says Chalmers. “The US proposals threaten the exception [in copyright law] that ensures that copyright owners don’t abuse their power by suing anyone who intentionally or unintentionally makes a temporary copy.

Basically the US draft says any copying is infringement, but then says we’ll give you an exception for caching and the like. We actually need copyright laws that focus on use of material, not the fact it may be copied. The Internet is the world’s largest copying machine.

A summary:

Contentious wish list

Interest groups’ key concerns over leaked draft of US IP chapter.

• Extension of copyright terms, eg, from 50 to 70 years for books after author’s death.

• Clampdown on exceptions to copyright rules, e.g, “fair use” provisions.

• Patents on software (New Zealand has already reversed its plan to exclude software in review of patent law).

• Parallel imports subject to veto.

• Internet service providers responsible for monitoring and policing.

• Rights holders can insist on removal of material.

• Offence to circumvent technological protection measures (e.g, region codes on DVDs, technology locks on iPhones).

I’m actually up in Auckland for a couple of TPP events today. My hope is that the NZ Government will continue to maintain its position that the TPP IP chapter should be consistent with current NZ intellectual property laws.

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NZ Herald on TPP

December 3rd, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

Trade is these days recognised as a universal benefit even if countries still make heavy weather of bargaining for it.

I wish that was true. NZ First and Greens oppose almost all trade deals, and elements within Labour are anti-trade also.

It is important that countries signing up to an investment treaty indicate at the outset the sort of health and environmental regulation they will uphold. John Key reaffirmed as recently as last week that New Zealand will not give up its public medical purchasing system, Pharmac, under pressure from US pharmaceutical manufacturers. Pharmac was not the only possible “deal breaker”. Mr Key also said the Government would not sign a TPP that allowed dairy tariffs to remain at present levels. New Zealand, as Trade Minister Tim Groser has also made clear, is aiming for a “gold standard” agreement and has no reason to settle for less. The TPP’s original four signatories set the standard and they should stick to it. If others want to do a weaker deal, they are in the wrong talks. The TPP means business.

What I would welcome is an equally clear statement from the Government on the IP provisions. Their negotiating position to date has been excellent – no change to our domestic laws. However the fear is this may be compromised later on. A pro-TPP website has also been launched – Trade Works, by a group of businesses. I agree trade works. I don’t agree that US copyright laws work, or are suitable for New Zealand.

TV3 reported:

Green Party co-leader Dr Russel Norman and Ms Kelsey both claim the TPP will form a legally-binding agreement which will impact on future Governments.

“The cabinet effectively can sign them off and make them binding on us without us having any say about it. Parliament has very very little role to play in this process,” says Ms Kelsey, but Mr Hooton disagrees.

“If, after time, we don’t like it we can always pull out so there’s no question of sovereignty,” he says. “We remain sovereign.”

The facts appear to me on Mr Hooton’s side. Clause 20.8 of the existing TPP (it is an expansion being negotiated) states:

Any Party may withdraw from this Agreement. Such withdrawal shall take effect upon the expiration of six months from the date on which written notice of withdrawal is received by the Depositary.

Some people are against all trade agreements. I’ve yet to find one that the Greens or Jane Kelsey have supported. This is ironic as the China FTA has been a huge economic boon with massive increase in exports to China.

With TPP, there are definitely some proposed provisions that are not good for New Zealand. But they are just proposals at this stage, and to date New Zealand has been resisting them. This is a good thing. Of course at some stage, there may be some compromises (but recall this is a 11 party negotiation, not a bi-lateral so a lot depends on where the majority of the parties wishes lie) and one has to take a view on the final package as a whole. It might be great for NZ as a whole. It might be mildly beneficial or it might not be beneficial, either slightly or significantly.

Until we see a final agreement, my position is to keep opposing the provisions I feel are bad for NZ, but to retain an open mind on any final agreement. Ideally of course I want a TPP which has as many wins for NZ as possible. I also want it to be wins for other parties, and the US would actually benefit in the long-term if they dropped their silly tariffs (as has been the case for NZ) and also gave up trying to have copyright laws that damage the Internet. So I see the NZ position as not being bad for the US, but actually good for them also – they just have vested interests back home they try to placate.

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Watkins on TPP

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

Tracy Watkins 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 TPP 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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Key on Burma and East Asia Summit

November 24th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

An interesting interview with John Key by Audrey Young. Some extracts:

Who first suggested you visit Burma?

My trusty foreign policy adviser [Ben King] and it worked because of location – it is close to Cambodia – and because we as a Government genuinely do believe that the Myanmar [Burma] Government is making progress. I don’t think we are naive to that progress. We understand it is not all perfect. It’s a long way from perfection, but fairly much every country is recognising them now and taking sanctions off them and trying to encourage them. The other EAS leaders have been very strong in their personal views to me. Certainly [President Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono of Indonesia and [Prime Minister] Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore have been very much of the view that [Burmese President] Thein Sein is quite genuine in his progress. …

You said in a press briefing with President Thein Sein that New Zealanders were passionate about human rights.

I care about people’s human rights and, as a country, we have a very proud record indeed. But I’m also realistic about what we can do … we can raise those issues with leaders and we can talk about those issues, and we do that. Moral persuasion over a period of time makes a difference, but we shouldn’t be naive to think that just because we raise it in a meeting it will make all those problems go away. It won’t and it doesn’t.

Can you have real democracy in Burma and still keep the ban on motorbikes?

You could if the voters had the chance to vote out the Government that had such a policy. But apparently the genesis of the ban was that one of the generals’ sons was killed on one so they just got rid of them.

Amazing. The madness of absolute power.

Do you think he’ll visit New Zealand as President?

My foreign policy adviser keeps reminding me to ask. I am not so confident. I hope so and he will probably come to Australia and he has obviously been before. He might. He really wants to. But the problem is that there just aren’t areas of disagreement. There’s obviously the anti-nuclear issue but that has been put behind us long ago. In a world that is so intense for him with so little … I know he personally wants to.

Ironically, you’re more likely to get a US visit if there is a dispute to help smooth over!

Was it a good trip?

I reckon really good. The thing about EAS is we got everything we wanted. We got the President saying let’s try and get a deal by the end of 2013. We said to him ‘do you want us to say this in the press because [if] you do, it will be reported and we’ll be held to account on it?’ and he said yes, absolutely. That doesn’t mean we’ll get a deal. There’s a lot of scepticism from those that aren’t involved in TPP. But he’s really serious about it. He thinks there aren’t that many levels for him to pull. It’s hard. They’ve got very low interest rates, they’re printing money, they’ve got big fiscal deficits. What things can he do to stimulate the economy? That’s one of them. It might fail but it won’t fail by want of trying.

My reading of this is the US needs the TPP more than NZ does. This doesn’t mean NZ should be unreasonable and try to screw the US over in negotiations. But it does mean that the NZ position on issues such as the proposed IP chapter shouldn’t be traded away.

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Key on TPP

November 20th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key will play ‘wing man’ to US president Barack Obama this morning, as the pair push for a Pacific trade pact to be completed. …

Obama will lead the TPP meeting this morning and then look to New Zealand to make an ”intervention,” Key explained.

“Our message [is] there’s a real opportunity to complete the Trans Pacific Partnership. It won’t happen without goodwill, give and take and shove from the leaders.

“This is our opportunity to get it over the line… there’s a lot to be gained.”

Sticking points include intellectual property rights and agriculture.

”It’s easy to identify the big issues…but then there is potentially a pathway through. I don;t think it has to become a lose lose situation. In the end New Zealand would never sign a deal unless it was in our best interests. We might have to give a little bit on one or two of those areas.”

I would love our exporters and especially our dairy sector to get US trade barriers lifted against them.

I don’t want NZ to agree to anything which changes our intellectual property laws – they already reflect a hard fought balance and compromise. I also want NZ to reject effective trade barriers such as bans on parallel  importing.

I understand to get a deal that compromise is needed. But that doesn’t mean any compromise is a good compromise. The Internet is hugely important to our future, as a geographically isolated nation. Agreeing to something which would introduce greater liability and uncertainty to Internet providers and publishers is not in our best interests.

The US needs the TPP to occur more than NZ does. It is of strategic importance to the US. With NZ, it is more a “very nice to have” in terms of trade access. We already have trade deals with China, Australia and many countries in Asia. Don’t get me wrong – I’d like a TPP which lowers trade barriers with the US, and other signatories. But I am skeptical of the US track record on meaningful concessions on trade barriers (The US-AU FTA was disappointingly weak) and a TPP along the lines of the US and Aus FTA would not be worth doing.

The Herald reports:

Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser, who is also in Cambodia, described the launch of the RCEP as “a wonderful symmetry between the two” for New Zealand.

While there was the chance of tension between the two deals, it had not been set up like that, he said.

“Our policy is we will dance with anybody provided they are prepared to engage in a high-quality FTA.

“It’s not like a cunning ploy but you can see quite clearly the possibility of creative tension.

“If RCEP just goes round in circles and TPP goes forward, it will put pressure on RCEP – equally the other way round.”

I like the way Groser thinks. While the timing is not deliberate, we can use the RCEP negotiations to put pressure on the US to be more flexible on the IP chapter of TPP. All NZ has to do is stay firm on its current negotiating position, while the US sees RCEP making progress. I’m confident they’ll then see the merits of a less dogmatic IP chapter and then we get a high quality TPP – a win win.

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Greens against fair NZ dairy access to Canada

August 20th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A stark reminder of how the Greens out global solidarity ahead of NZ’s interests.

Audrey Young reports:

Meanwhile, the Green Parties of New Zealand, Australia and Canada are joining forces to campaign against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

They issued a joint statement yesterday after Metiria Turei, co-leader of the NZ Greens, held a press conference in Canada with her counterpart from there.

Among the Greens’ concerns is the prospect of the heavily protected Canadian dairy industry being de-regulated, removing safeguards which they say aim to preserve farmers’ livelihoods.

So the NZ Green Party is against NZ dairy farmers being able to have fair access into Canada!!! Their concern is to protect inefficient subsidized Canadian farmers, not to help NZ farmers export more milk.

The Financial Post point out how the Canadian system works:

Canadians must hope New Zealand and Australia force Canada to scrap its protectionist supply management system for dairy, poultry and eggs before being allowed to join the coveted Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The Aussies and Kiwis have been upset with Canada over these agricultural subsidies for decades and are doing consumers in Canada, and the economy as a whole, a favor by opposing them.

Canada’s dairy, poultry and egg farmers belong to government-sanctioned cartels that keep out foreign competition with the help of tariffs as high as 300%. The government guarantees their success by setting a floor price. The result is monopoly profits and an estimate, by the OECD, that Canadians overpay $3 billion annually for these foodstuffs.

The Greens basically don’t like trade. They voted against the FTA with China which has seen us export an extra $12 billion to China since it was signed. They want Canada to keep up its tariffs of up to 300%.

As the most remote developed country in the world, trade is vital to our future. Yet, the Greens want to kill it off.

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ACTA dead

July 6th, 2012 at 1:14 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The European Parliament overwhelmingly defeated an international anti-piracy trade agreement on Wednesday after concern that it would limit Internet freedom sparked street protests in cities across Europe.

The vote – 39 in favour, 478 against, with 165 abstentions – appeared to deal the death blow to the European Union’s participation in a treaty it helped negotiate, though other countries may still participate without the EU.

I think this shows the strength of global opposition to unbalanced copyright regimes, as pushed by the US entertainment industry. But to have barely 5% of the European Parliament vote in favour is incredible, especially when you consider the details of ACTA.

The failure to ratify the treaty is a humiliation for the European Union, which was one of the prime movers in the multi-year effort to negotiate the agreement. EU officials had maintained that ACTA would change nothing in European law, but would be simply an instance of the EU leading by example and exporting its strong copyright protection laws to other countries where safeguards are weaker.

This is the astonishing thing. The final version of ACTA was in fact relatively benign. The draft versions pushed by the US had some draconian provisions, but the New Zealand Government, and other Governments, insisted that there be nothing in there that would require a significant change to our copyright laws. Eventually the US backed down, and the final version is, well as I said, fairly benign.

What New Zealand politicians should reflect on is if even a relatively benign copyright agreement such as ACTA can provoke such opposition that only 5% of the European Parliament will vote for it, think what electoral fate would await politicians who vote for a truly horrendous copyright regime?

The New Zealand Government is currently negotiating the TPP agreement with the US and a dozen or so other countries. The draft US chapter on intellectual property laws and especially copyright is even worse than the draft ACTA chapter was – and exponentially worse than the final ACTA agreement. Think the difference between a poodle and a pack of African Wild Dogs. Rick Shera summarised it here:

  • Rights holders would be allowed to prevent parallel imports
  • Massive extension of copyright terms, from life of author plus 50 years, to 70 years
  • Circumventing a Technological Protection Measure (TPM) will to be a criminal offence even if the work it protects is in the public domain
  • The return of s92A guilt on accusation, repeat infringer, termination of internet accounts
  • Forcing us to reverse the decison recently taken to exclude software patents
  • Introducing statutory damages (which give rights holders windfall damages up to 3 times their actual losses)
  • ISP policing of IP rights incuding a requirement for ISPs to give up their customers’ identities when they receive a mere allegation
  • Criminal liability even where the infringement has no commercial value at all
  • Pushing Courts to impose imprisonment as the default sentence for infringement even where no monetary benefit is obtained

The US IP chapter would also see Internet caching effectively made illegal. It really is that bad.

Now the good news is that as with ACTA, the New Zealand Government has been resisting the US IP chapter, as have most other countries. This is a good thing. I am personally a fan of free trade agreements and would love the TPP to be concluded reducing trade barriers. But not if the price is agreeing to the US IP chapter.

TPP is more difficult than ACTA. In ACTA, New Zealand was not really seeking anything in return – so it was easy to stay firm. In the TPP, all countries have wish lists, so it is inevitable that at some stage there may be some compromises made at a senior political level.

The clear message to the United States has to be that if even a benign copyright agreement such as ACTA can’t get agreement and ratification, then they have to realise that there is no way the TPP can include the IP chapter they are pushing. It would be an electoral suicide pact.

Even in the US itself, unbalanced copyright laws have been turning toxic. SOPA and PIPA got voted down in Congress. Every single Republican Presidential candidate denounced them.

I am not one of those people who are anti-copyright.  I am all for there being penalties for people who copy a song/book/movie rather than pay for it. But the laws need to be balanced, and they need to not screw over the Internet.

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Imperator Fish on TPPA

June 16th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Scott at Imperator Fish blogs on the TPPA:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement has a lot of people talking, particularly over the fear many people have that New Zealand will agree to an investor-state dispute provision that would allow foreign companies to take legal action in some circumstances, if our government passed legislation those companies didn’t like. Environmental and health groups worry that the provisions could be used by tobacco companies to challenge anti-smoking regulations, or by multinationals to toss out environmental protections they don’t like.

Critics have claimed the measures would amount to our handing over our sovereignty. Legally this is a nonsense. What right, if any, we give to multinationals we will give because our Parliament adopted legislation ratifying the agreement. Parliament could theoretically the very next day repeal that legislation, rendering the agreement provisions unenforceable. People, we don’t lose our sovereignty.*

It is also worth pointing out that investor-state provisions work two ways. They protect NZ companies from (for example) having their assets nationalised in another country, purely because they are NZ owned.

For me the issue is not the existence of investor-state provisions, but how they are crafted. You want them crafted in a way which does protect your country’s right to make laws and policies in the public interest.

That’s not to say the deal’s a good one, and there is plenty to be deeply concerned about. However, the nature of free trade negotiations is you win some battles and lose others. If we ratified the thing it wouldn’t be all bad. It might be more bad than good, and that might be enough reason to say no to the deal, but it’s not true to say that the TPPA offers New Zealand nothing.

I am a supporter of free trade agreements, but the chapter proposed by the US on intellectual property is deeply flawed and its inclusion in any deal would be a bad thing.

Most people following the TPPA negotiations would agree there should be more transparency in the deal-making process. But we cannot expect officials to disclose everything to the public, because if our officials did that no country on Earth would want to enter into discussions with us. Clearly there has been too much secrecy, but it isn’t realistic to expect no secrecy. However, the broad condemnation across the board suggests officials haven’t got the balance right.

There’s plenty not to like about the TPPA and the secrecy surrounding the negotiation process. The opposition parties should continue to put pressure on the Government, to ensure that if the deal proceeds it provides more opportunities than costs for New Zealand. But we can’t do a deal without any trade-offs. The challenge is to find concessions we can live with, a challenge that is looking increasingly difficult.

The reality with negotiations is you need all parties to agree to do anything – including made draft texts public. NZ can push for this, but it can not dictate to the other parties.

Scott is right that there are always trade-offs. But these need to be from all countries – including the US. It’s IP chapter is basically opposed by every other negotiating country. If they want a deal, they need to come up with a chapter that won’t make Internet caching illegal, won’t ban parallel importing, won’t stifle software innovation with patent wars, won’t extend copyright terms for decades more, and won’t force on countries laws where people lose Internet access upon unproved accusations.

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