James Murray on the TPP

, TV3’s online editor, has done a very well researched and comprehensive blog post on the proposed TPP free trade agreement.

I am a huge supporter of free trade and my ideal simply consist of saying “You can sell our residents us anything you want that is legal and safe and we can sell your residents  anything we want that is legal and safe”. Of course then up to individual consumers what they choose to buy and import.

But free trade agreements are rarely that simple. They have a mixture of good and bad stuff in them. Overall the ones we have signed have been massively beneficial for New Zealand such as CER and the China FTA. But that does not mean all future ones will be. Murray points out some areas of concern in the :

Hughes points out that proposed changes to law could see the international copyright term (the author’s life plus 50 years) extended for another twenty years.

This would mean that no new works would enter the public domain in any of the countries signed to the TPP until 2033.

To steal a quote from the analysis linked to above – lengthening copyright terms would “impose severe costs on the American public without providing any public benefit. It would supply a windfall to the heirs and assignees of dead authors and deprive living authors of the ability to build on the cultural legacy of the past”.

What would this mean for publishing in New Zealand?

Books by James K. Baxter, Dame Ngaio Marsh and Ronald Morrieson, all soon to come into the public domain, would stay in copyright.

The US in 1998 increased the term of copyright from 75 years to 95 years, partly at the lobbying by Disney to stop early works entering the public domain. This was in my opinion not needed, as Mickey Mouse would still be a trademark owned by Disney and not able to be used by others.

Critics of the TPP point out that the agreement spelled out in the leaked document would lead to a situation where pharmaceutical companies would be able to extend on medicines more easily and also delay generic drugs from hitting the market.

It is a balancing act about when you allow patented drugs to become generically available. Too early and you freeze up investment to invent new better drugs. Too long a period, and you have people paying a lot more money for the drugs. I’m not convinced the current balance is wrong and needs changing.
Ever picked up a camera or mobile phone from a Parallel Import shop for less than an approved supplier?

According to the analysis provided by infojustice.org this could become a thing of the past as a consequence of Article 4.2 of the leaked document would be an international legal requirement “to provide copyright owners an exclusive right to block parallel trade”.

National allowed parallel imports in the late 90s, despite opposition from Labour. Luckily they never changed the law, so we still have it. It would be a bad thing to lose it.
Now it should be said that as far as I know NZ negotiators are fighting against all these provisions. That is a good thing. However for there to be an agreement eventually compromises will be necessary, and the Government will weigh up what they concede against the benefits of any concessions from the US on dairy, beef and lamb access.
Whether or not the TPP is a good or a bad thing for NZ, will come down to the details of what is in it. As James Murray has pointed out, the US is pushing for some stuff which would not be good for New Zealand. I hope the Government stays firm on these.

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