The AFTINET Trade Justice campaigner, Harvey Purse, attended the Auckland negotiations on Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th December, 2011 and a meeting of civil society groups on Sunday 5th. Much thanks needs to be extended to the SPSF, AMWU and ANF for their financial assistance, which ensured that AFTINET was present in Auckland to lend support to our New Zealand allies and take a look on the inside. AMWU Representative, Don Sutherland and NTEU Representative, Ted Murphy, also attended the meeting.
AFTINET attended stakeholder events during both days. In addition there was a meeting each day of civil society stakeholders who were present from Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia. It was a valuable experience meeting key players in NZ, planning our approach for the day and coordinating.
To start civil society actions for the week a joint cross-Tasman letter, signed by more than 60 Australian and New Zealand civil society groups, was sent to New Zealand Prime Minster John Kay and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard calling on both governments to resist the United States Investment agenda and reject outright the inclusion of investor-state disputes processes. (see the letter on the AFTINET website: http://aftinet.org.au/cms/tppa-resources-page.)
As the negotiations started a great protest got underway near the entrance to the venue – the Conference centre of the Sky Casino – with the theme “Gambling with our Future”. The protest featured speakers from several unions, academics and Auckland City Council and some great street theatre. This received good media coverage in New Zealand, which is on our website: http://aftinet.org.au/cms/trans-pacific-partnership-agreement/tppa-media-reports-our-campaign.
Main Issues – Auckland Summary:
Market Access Provisions: By the 5th round of negotiations in Chile, from 14th-18th February 2011, initial offers on goods market access, including agriculture will be made. It should then be clear whether any existing FTA market access schedules will be re-opened.
Transparency/Access to negotiations: The lack of transparency and two levels of access continued in New Zealand. However a “release the text” campaign has commenced out of the negotiations and the leaked New Zealand text on Intellectual Property Rights. (see the letter and leaked text on the AFTINET website: http://aftinet.org.au/cms/tppa-resources-page.)
The stakeholders attending were a mixture of groups - about 66% corporate and 33% unions, critics and activists. There were some critical business people, especially from the IP sector. The formal stakeholders activities were self-initiated and the pro-TPP lobby complained to MFAT (New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) about lack of ‘balance’.
However, corporations were invited to address the formal negotiating meetings. The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), US Chamber of Commerce and Fedex addressed the negotiators on the first morning session on regulatory coherence. Later, Toll Holdings (PPP roads etc), the Medical Technology industry and NZ Winegrowers spoke to a Thursday session. In contrast non-business stakeholders, such as AFTINET, had no access to these sessions and were only able to attend stakeholder sessions run outside the negotiating timetable.
Regulatory coherence: “Regulatory coherence” is driven by a desire from business interests for common rules of entry and activity in markets. It was repeatedly stated by both negotiators and business representatives that this will lead “deep behind the border into domestic regulatory space”. For example they would like to have safety approval for a product in one country to apply to all countries. This could severely limit the ability of each country to set its own safety, health, environmental, qualification and other quality standards. As noted, it is being driven by business interests from a supply chain point of view. It was conceded that this process left out other stakeholders.
It is clearly an area with potential to limit the space of government’s to legislate and regulate in the public interest and has the potential to be a race to the bottom.
Investment: It would appear that the text is well advanced and is based on the original text that was carried over from the P4 plus US talks, where an investor-state dispute process was part of the US agenda and placed on the table. Investor-state is currently ‘in play’, but they are not yet at the point of needing to resolve issues.
It would appear that the standard US agenda of liberalisation of investment provisions is the basis for the talks.
Trade in Services: Cross border trade in services text is somewhat advanced as it is based on pre-existing text. Most countries had now presented their contributions and disagreements. It appears that the approach will be based on the “negative list” approach rather than our preferred campaigns “positive list” approach.
It is clear from the Australian Services Roundtable event that Financial Services, Education, IT and Health Services are the main areas of offensive interest to Australia on Trade in Services.
Labour Rights Chapter: The US position is not entirely clear due to the midterm congressional election outcome – the US team emphasised the need for them to go back to congress to determine the position and whether the US-Peru Labour Chapter was still the negotiating position.
Reports from a meeting with Australian Labour Chapter negotiators and unions indicate that the Australians were not particularly enthusiastic. It was stated that the Australia-US FTA has a labour chapter which was there because the US insisted, and that it goes further than New Zealand’s labour agreements but not as far as the US-Peru chapter.
It appeared that the Australian negotiators are not keen on such provisions (and there are mixed messages from Australian Labor Government Trade Ministers), but are prepared to consider the US-Peru FTA chapter as a model. There is acceptance of including a reference committing to the ILO Declaration on Core Labour Standards, but it would be “more difficult” to obtain commitments making direct reference to the conventions themselves. Text on Labour is likely to happen “soon” – there is pressure to get some text for next round.
Environment: The focus appears to be on environmental goods and services rather than protection of the environment. This potentially could cover highly controversial areas such as water supply and services, waste water, and many other areas affecting local government.
Intellectual Property Rights: We heard nothing about the negotiations as such, but outside them there was a leak of the New Zealand position paper. The paper did not support any extensions of corporate intellectual property rights beyond current WTO agreements and is clearly in conflict with the US standard position, which is to have “WTO-plus” provisions.
For example, there was pressure from a lobbyist Croplife International (represented by Agcarm, New Zealand) for data protection for 10 years for test data from licensing processes on the grounds that it “encourages innovation”. The same claim is being made for medicines by pharmaceutical firms. The aim and the effect is to prevent competition from generic competitors. It therefore drives up prices.
There are reports out of the US which indicate that the US is only interested in an agreement which “raises the norms on IP”. (see http://www.keionline.org/node/1035)
Other Areas of Discussion: It is clear that the following areas are also under discussion and having varying levels of advancement including:
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