Jacobi on TPP

August 3rd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stephen Jacobi writes in the NZ Herald:

As the debate continues, here’s a brief guide about what to look for.

Dairy has the most potentially to gain. It’s our largest export and the barriers in the US, Japan and Canada are absurdly high.

The question is not whether dairy will be excluded from the deal, but rather the extent of its inclusion – will TPP economies allow significant access into the dairy consumption in their markets and under transparent rules? Will these benefits be offered to all or will there be better access for some?

Again, I’m very pleased the NZ negotiators refused to accept a deal that didn’t deliver enough on dairy.

The sad thing with the soviet-style system of quotas the Canadian industry has, is that it stifles them, rather than protects them. The history from NZ is that removing protection will actually massively boost the local industry, as they have to then respond to competition.

If Canada did have the political will to reform their system, they would find over time I am sure that the biggest beneficiaries would be Canadian diary farmers. Just as the NZ wine industry grew massively once they lost their tariffs and protection.

Other goods should not be overlooked. In just four major exports – meat, horticulture, seafood and wine – there are annual tariffs paid of at least $130 million.

If other products are added (forestry, manufactured goods), and with some even partial gains on dairy, the benefits from elimination would be significant. This is not new business, which could occur under lower tariffs, or overall economic impact, just money saved.

If a deal is struck, it will be good to see an economic analysis of the impact.

On intellectual property New Zealand has interests to promote – our creative industries and some IT exports could benefit from better IP protection internationally – as well as some clearly identified risks to avoid.

Generally the Government will want to hold, to the greatest extent possible, to existing policy in respect to medicine pricing, the role of Pharmac, patent terms and extensions including in respect to biologic drugs and to software, copyright, geographical indications, parallel importing and internet file downloading.

Very pleased to see Stephen agree we want to retain current policy on copyright, parallel importing, downloading, patents etc. From all accounts the negotiators have done that.

This is not to suggest that some changes to existing policy might not need to be made.

Hopefully nothing too major. I understand the term of copyright may increase, which is regrettable, but not as bad as many other possible changes.

Reports coming out suggest that the US has backed down on most of the IP chapter demands – to the degree that Australia wants the TPP agreement to supersede their bilateral FTA agreement on Internet copyright issues, as it is less onerous.

The US press has pointed to the value of the first FTA to include binding environmental provisions which protect endangered species.

New Zealand has always championed the elimination of fish subsidies.

Good.

Some will argue that what is now realistically on offer is significantly less than the bold vision for TPP outlined at Apec in Honolulu in 2011. They are right. That is deeply disappointing for negotiators and business alike.

“High quality, ambitious and comprehensive” was how TPP was begun and should guide its ending.

What the process has showed is that there are protectionist and anti-competitive forces at work even in the most open of trading economies.

Yep, it is not going to what they wanted at the start. Part of this is because Japan and Canada were allowed in. That is good in terms of more markets being available to us, but bad in the sense of getting a higher quality agreement.

Whether or not the TPP is a net plus for New Zealand will be seen when or if there is a final agreement. But again I find it encouraging that NZ was prepared to reject an agreement which didn’t deliver enough for dairy, and just as importantly is holding our position on the IP chapter.

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Good to see NZ hold firm

August 2nd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Trade Minister Tim Groser says he is disappointed a landmark free-trade pact stumbled after talks broke down in Hawaii.

Negotiations among 12 Pacific nations failed to reach a conclusion.

“Good progress was made this week, but a number of challenging issues remain, including intellectual property and market access for dairy products”, Mr Groser said.

“We will continue to work toward a successful conclusion. This is about getting the best possible deal for New Zealand, not a deal at any cost.”

This is good. It shows the NZ negotiating team is not willing to sign up to an agreement without substantial diary access and an acceptable intellectual property chapter. I’m really pleased that we have not given in.

Stuff reports:

Pacific Rim trade ministers have failed to clinch a deal to free up trade between a dozen nations after a dispute flared between Japan and North America over autos, New Zealand dug in over dairy trade and no agreement was reached on monopoly periods for next-generation drugs. …

The president of the Canadian Dairy Farmers, Wally Smith, blamed New Zealand for the delay in the agreement saying it was not accepting what was on the table.

“New Zealand is being very obstinate … I am really surprised that this late in the end game, a country like New Zealand would not put a little water in its wine,” he said.

Canada has a general election later this year, so I suspect the Canadian Government may not feel able to sign up to any meaningful reform of their soviet style dairy system. And if there is a change of Government, then even less likely. I’d be happy for Canada to drop out, if they are the barrier to a dairy agreement.

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Crampton on TPP and drugs

July 30th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Eric Crampton writes:

I don’t think that the extensions to drug patents hinted at under TPP are for the good. But it isn’t obvious that they aren’t.

Let’s run the story.

Most new drug development happens in the US and EU, with more coming in now from China as well. It is ridiculously expensive to develop new drugs. Some of that is because the FDA makes things harder than they need to be, but a lot of it is real cost. The US has pretty strong drug patent protection to encourage investment in new drug development: nobody will spend hundreds of millions, or more, on drug research that might lead to one or two commercially viable breakthroughs if they can’t reap the rewards on the ones that pan out.

On that story, New Zealand and others have been free-riding pretty hard. Don’t get me wrong – this is great for New Zealand. We get a pile of generics out of India when they come off-patent here and the drug system saves tons of money. But we’re contributing rather less to the general “let’s develop more new drugs” effort. Price controls on pharmaceuticals do discourage new development (and here’s similar EU evidence), and newpharmaceutical innovation saves lives.

You could imagine an international convention, agreed to by everybody, that would reduce global free-riding on research done in the EU and US in order to get more new drugs developed. We in New Zealand would pay more than we’re paying now, but we’d also be paying a fairer share of the development costs of new drugs. Optimal pricing should still involve poorer countries paying less than richer ones, but you’d also have expected things like iPads to sell for less in New Zealand than in the US on the same kind of grounds – so that part might disappoint.

But think about the rhetoric on “doing our part” on global warming, and wonder why the same “doing our part” arguments haven’t been made about pharmaceutical innovation to save lives.

It’s a fair point.

Overall like Eric I don’t want want longer patent terms for drugs, but the cost to NZ may not be hugely significant. We’ll have to wait to see the costings, if or when there is a deal.

I’m still undecided on TPP, and getting nervous about the rhetoric. I’m a huge supporter of freeing up trade, but this is starting to sound like a very modest deal, rather than the gold plated one we were told was the aim of it.

Some of the US demands in the intellectual property chapter would be bad for New Zealand. We have resisted them to date, which is good. But as part of the final stage negotiating we may compromise on the IP chapter in order to make gains elsewhere. Now that may be okay if we get a really really good deal elsewhere, but not if we don’t.

The two key chapters appear to be dairy and IP. So broadly there are four scenarios. They are.

  1. Good dairy access, no compromise on IP chapter – a great outcome – sign it quickly
  2. Poor dairy access, no compromise on IP chapter – a modest outcome – worth signing
  3. Poor dairy access, significant compromises on IP chapter – don’t sign.
  4. Good dairy access, significant compromises on IP chapter – the difficult balancing act

So scenario 1 is what we want. Scenario 3 is what we should refuse to sign up to. Scenario 2 is disappointing but still a gain for NZ so ok.

Scenario 4 is more tricky. The devil will be in the detail. If we really got eventual unrestricted access to the US, Canadian and Japanese markets then we probably have to accept some painful concessions elsewhere. But if the dairy gains are relatively modest, then compromising on the IP chapter may turn the TPP into something I can’t support. Ultimately I’ll reserve judgement until I read the impact analysis, but I’m worried that scenario 1 is looking rather remote.

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Hehir on ISDS

July 25th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes:

Protectionist critics of the TPP, however, allege that ISDS undermines national self-government by allowing foreign businesses to sue member states over legitimate policy decisions. NZ First MP Fletcher Tabuteau is so concerned about this that he has a bill before Parliament to outlaw free trade agreements that include ISDS provisions altogether – something that would preclude our participation in the TPP.

Consistent with its Hamlet-like agonising on the subject, Labour has pledged to support Tabuteau’s bill to a first reading (despite the fact that it will almost certainly back the treaty when it comes to the crunch).

In fact, concerns over ISDS are probably overstated.

In the first place, ISDS is now a well-established aspect of international trade. Globally, there are already about 3000 treaties and deals with ISDS in place. Our own recent free trade agreements with Malaysia, South Korea and the People’s Republic of China include such provisions (and did so, it should be added, with Labour’s support).

Yes, ISDS is not some new thing dreamt up by the US. Labour agreed to ISDS clauses in most of the FTAs they signed.

Those still wavering can take further comfort in the fact that, in any event, no ISDS procedure will be able to overturn any of our laws or enjoin our government from any particular course of action. The most an aggrieved party could ever win would be compensation for harm suffered. And if our Government didn’t want to pay the damages, nobody could force it to – though our international reputation would take an (entirely deserved) beating if that happened.

This is not to say that we should go along with ISDS in any form whatsoever. We should only sign treaties we intend to honour and a badly drafted ISDS regime could expose the Government to unmeritorious claims that could soon become a serious nuisance. If the risk of that happening outweighs the benefits of the treaty, then the Government should refuse the deal.

When all is said and done, however, there is nothing conceptually untoward about ISDS provided our overall national sovereignty is not threatened (more on that next time). The devil will be in the detail, of course, but in all probability New Zealanders will have more to gain from the mechanism than our government stands to lose from it. It is not, in principle, a sound reason to oppose the TPP.

As Hehir says, there are some ISDS forms which would be bad for NZ. But our negotiators have negotiated ISDS clauses in several previous FTAs, and we’ve never had a problem to date with them.

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Labour’s TPP conditions

July 24th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Leader Andrew Little said his party supported free trade but would not back the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) unless the five “non-negotiable bottom lines” were met.

They are:

* Drug buying agency Pharmac must be protected.

* Corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest.

* New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farm land and housing to non-resident foreigner buyers.

* The Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld.

* Meaningful gains are made for farmers in tariff reductions and market access.

These are not unreasonable bottom lines. It is good to see Labour have not abandoned their previous support for free trade.

The issue may be that some of them can not be defined with 100% certainity – you can never know the outcome of a lawsuit. But I note the following:

Labour believes the conditions reflect protections in the 2008 free trade agreement it negotiated with China.

That FTA has investor state dispute settlement provisions, so if the TPP has the same, then that should not be a reason for Labour to oppose it.

I’d add a sixth condition on – that NZ does not have to make changes to out intellectual property laws in a way which would harm the Internet in NZ.

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Dom Post on TPP

July 7th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

US President Barack Obama has thrown the last of his political capital behind the deal, to the consternation of his own party. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has suggested he’s willing to kick against the agricultural interests that have long kept in place big farming subsidies in his country.

And trade ministers from all the other countries are delighted; “it’s show time”, our own Tim Groser said.

He should hold the razzle-dazzle and make it clear that New Zealand will only sign up to the deal if it’s plainly a good one. That means meaningful access to new markets where New Zealand exports are likely to succeed. It means serious wins like those that came with the free-trade deal with China, or, much further back, the one with Australia.

I agree. We don’t want a deal like the Australian-US FTA which had little actual trade access benefits.

I don’t mind if there are long or even very long transition times for the lifting of tariffs and quotas. What is important is the end goal – which must be far far fewer tariffs and quotas.

A leaked TPP chapter from May shows the US pushing as hard as ever for new rights for pharmaceutical companies. Pharmac, New Zealand’s economical drug-buying agency, is a special target. Doctors without Borders calls the TPP “the worst-ever agreement in terms of access to medicines”.

The Government says it won’t let Pharmac be gutted. It must hold to that – or drop the TPP. No plausible tariff cuts that would make up for it.

The US pushes for a lot. They, like everyone, has to compromise. I would be very surprised if TPP has a significant impact on Pharmac.

Equally worrying are the TPP’s “investor-state dispute settlement” mechanisms. These give big companies an opaque new forum to sue governments that pass laws they don’t like. They were invented to protect companies operating in countries with dodgy records on the rule of law, but they are spreading all over the world. They have no place in New Zealand – and deserve to be dropped from the TPP.

This is where I disagree. ISDS mechanisms are extremely common in trade agreements, and protect NZ companies also. More to the point half a dozen trade agreements signed by Labour had them in. This is not some new mechanism – they have been included on trade agreements for decades. The devil is in the detail. Our negotiators have been very skilled at getting wording that allows us to pass laws and regulations on public policy grounds, without triggering claims under such clauses.

Trade is a positive force that has helped raise living standards and lift millions out of poverty around the world. Many trade deals have been huge positives for New Zealand, even if painful for particular sectors.

Good to see recognition of this.

Yet the TPP seems to be as much about stomping on valid local regulations as it does about stripping away trade protections. New Zealand has to be clear about the difference.

My ideal trade agreement is one which says:

Country A can sell whichever goods and services it likes to the citizens and companies of Country B, and Country B can sell whichever goods and services it likes to the citizens and companies of Country B.

Sadly we’ll never get that. But hopefully TPP will have significant trade access. Without it, it won’t be worth it.

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TPP and Dairy

June 24th, 2015 at 2:06 pm by David Farrar

Richard Harman at Politik writes:

Prime Minister John Key has confirmed that New Zealand has yet to see any major concessions on dairy exports to Japan and Canada from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement negotiations.

That’s because both Japan and Canada, the negotiating countries with the highest barriers against dairy imports have yet to begin the “hard” part of their negotiations.

But it leaves a huge hole in the negotiations which Mr Key admits is not what New Zealand wants. …

Speaking at his weekly post Cabinet Press Conference, the prime Minister described the situation in Washington as “a game of chess” between the Senate and the House.

He said there was a deal on dairy products “but it’s not at the level we would currently like.

“There are more negotiations to be undertaken”

Asked what advantages New Zealand would gain, if the dairy agreement could not be reached he said: “What I’ve seen at the moment is if we froze time and concluded the deal, as I see it it’s a net positive for New Zealand.

“But it wouldn’t be nearly enough for dairy for us to be comfortable and we’d like to see more.”

 

The TPP was meant to be a gold standard trade agreement. It won’t be that if there is no meaningful dairy access.

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3,000 agreements have an investor-state dispute settlement clause

May 16th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Some anti-trade activists are saying that NZ should not agree to any TPP, as it will have an investor-state dispute settlement clause in it. They would have you think that this is some new clause that will give multinationals rights to over-turn decisions by Governments.

As I previously blogged, almost every trade agreement signed by New Zealand in the last decade has an ISDS clause. Labour signed half a dozen with such a clause.

But as Brian Fallow reports, they are even more common that that:

More than 3000 bilateral investment treaties and other international agreements include ISDS.

3,000 agreements to date have such a clause!

In fact the number of agreements providing ISDS protections for foreign investors greatly exceeds the number of cases brought under them over the years.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which monitors them, by the end of last year 356 investor-state cases had been concluded, of which 37 per cent were decided in favour of the state and 25 per cent ended in favour of the investor with monetary compensation awarded.

So over the last 40 years the number of cases has been less than 10% of the number of agreements. So on average you only get one case for every 10 agreements.

I have concerns over some of the clauses proposed by the US in the TPP. But a decision on whether to support or oppose the final agreement (if there is one) should be based on what is actually in the agreement, not on scaremongering.

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Vietnam benefits most from TPP?

May 1st, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Tyler Cowan blogs:

Here is an assessment from the Peterson Institute that Vietnam will be the biggest gainer from TPP.  Do you get that, progressives?  Poorest country = biggest gainer.  Isn’t that what we are looking for?  And if you are a deontologist, Vietnam is a country we have been especially unjust to in the past.

Some people think the TPP is all for the benefit of the US. This study found that Vietnam will gain the most benefit, so the TPP could help lift hundreds of thousands out of poverty.

Yes, I am familiar with the IP and tech criticisms of TPP, and I agree with many of them.  But if you add those costs up, in utilitarian terms I doubt if they amount to more than a fraction of the potential benefit for the ninety million people of Vietnam.  TPP is more of a “no brainer” than a close call.

Likewise I agree with the criticism of the US proposals for the IP chapter. However we don’t yet know how much of their proposals make the final agreement. Only then can we look at whether the costs are bigger or larger than the benefits.

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Has NZ caved on copyright in the TPP?

February 9th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The EFF report:

New reports indicate that Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators have agreed to language that would bind its 12 signatory nations to extend copyright terms to match the United States’ already excessive length of copyright. This provision expands the reach of the controversial US Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (or the “Mickey Mouse Act” as it was called due to Disney’s heavy lobbying) to countries of the Pacific region. Nations including Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Canada would all be required to extend their terms and grant Big Content companies lengthy exclusive rights to works for no empirical reason. This means that all of the TPP’s extreme enforcement provisions would apply to creative works for upwards of 100 years. …

These are the terms of the proposal, revealed by several leaks of the TPP Intellectual Property chapter: If the copyright holder is an individual, the minimum copyright term would extend to the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years after her death.

It is unclear if NZ has caved on just the length of copyright, or also on all the other issues in the intellectual property chapter. If it is the latter, that is truly bad as the US proposed text would be severely detrimental to the Internet, ISPs and users.

If they have only caved on the length of copyright, that is less bad but still undesirable. The current NZ law is for copyright to apply for life plus 50 years, and an extension to life plus seventy is not justified.

The reason we have copyright is to protect and encourage innovation and creative works. If there was no copyright at all, then we’d have few authors and movies. However no author or creator is encouraged to produce creative works by the possibility royalties will still flow 70 years after they die.

You could make a principled case that copyright should only apply for the life of a creator. However that could set up an incentive to kill authors to make their works public domain, plus if they have young children it is fair that royalties from their works should continue while their children become adults.

So I think a copyright term of life plus 20 years is what we should have. We should not be always extending the life of copyright to benefit some US corporations. Think if you could never put on a Shakespearean play without having to pay a large fee to the great great great great grand children of Shakespeare.

Copyright is an invented right, which seeks to balance the rights of creators and the rights of users. It is not an natural right such as free speech. It is an important intellectual property right, but extending the term to life plus 70 years will not benefit creators (they will be long dead). It will benefit a few large corporations.

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From an anti TPP protest

November 11th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Screenshot 2014-11-08 23.46.53

Sent in by a reader, as reported on One News.

I wonder if she even knows what the NZ position on the TPP negotiations has been. I suspect she doesn’t.

 

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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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