A near miss on a disastrous free trade deal

Stuff has a very interesting article on how close NZ got to commencing negotiations with the US on a free trade deal. I am a huge fan of free trade agreements but when you read the detail, you realise that what we were looking to agree to would have been terrible for NZ.

On February 12, Peters and Trade Minister David Parker were given another paper, which would give the go-ahead for “technical talks” with the US “ahead of potential formal negotiations of a digital trade agreement” – now given the name DiTA.

Such an agreement would have been of no benefit to NZ, in fact a huge detriment.

I was quite closely involved with the civil society push against the US proposals for Internet services and intellectual property in the TPP. I blogged about it in 2015 here. It would have meant no parallel importing, longer copyright terms, guilt upon accusation termination of Internet accounts, making software patentable etc. All of this would have been harmful to NZ.

Now look if in TPP we had got massive reduction in barriers and tariffs on all our agricultural exports, then possibly you might swallow the proposed IP chapter, In negotiations, you have to compromise and negotiate.

The final TPP saw almost all of the nasty IP chapter watered down, so the TPP overall was worthwhile as we got some moderate gains in tariff reductions.

But what Winston and Parker were on the verge of agreeing to was an agreement on digital services only. I shudder. Basically this would be giving the US pretty much everything they tried to get in the TPP IP chapter, and us getting nothing in return. It would have allowed the Government to claim we finally had a free trade deal with the US, but in fact it would have been a deal that would have imposed more restrictions on us, not liberalised us.

So thank God the deal fell apart.

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