Amari: "[TPP] Agreement Is Not Yet In Sight"



Score another failed round of negotiations, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) continues to let down big business that wants less regulations and more secrecy.

And meanwhile, Japan's newly appointed Trade Minister Miyazawa is in hot water for taking illegal donations from a foreign company, a story that I'm sure will have more importance than the fact that some on his staff joined a S&M club and paid for it from his pocket (although he says he did not attend).

But back to TPP. Today, another non-round of negotiations (the last proper one was held in Brunei, which I attended as a "stakeholder" for Consumers Union of Japan) has failed to get results. This time in Sydney, the amicable host, Australian Trade Minister Robb (how is that for irony, a politician actually called exactly was they do best, rob paul to pay peter, etc. etc.) criticized NGOs and other experts who are trying to bring information about this deal to the public:

Mr Robb lashed out at consumer groups and the Greens for spreading misinformation about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, before walking into a meeting with 11 trade counterparts in Sydney on Saturday to finalise the "basic elements" of the deal.
"Those who are opposed to this scheme for all sorts of reasons are peddling a lot of misinformation, saying pharmacy costs will go up," he said on ABC Radio.
"This is not the intention or the outcome that will occur with this particular 21st century agreement."
Mr Robb's words back up assurances by Finance Minister Matthias Cormann this week that the government would not support an outcome that sees medicine costs pushed up.
But consumer advocacy group Choice claims the trade deal includes provisions to stretch patents on some life-saving drugs for an extra 12 years. Prices usually drop 16 per cent once the patent expires.
"If the TPP extends patents we'll be paying higher prices for some medicines over a longer period of time," said Choice's campaign manager Erin Turner.


I might add that Choice is a highly respected independent consumer organization in Australia, with a long history as a member of Consumers International.

In Australia, the debate and the demonstrations have been fierce this weekend. Here is a good take from The Conversation, with some history to help you if you feel a little lost:

Deja vu: last week a new version of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was leaked. Even as experts try to make sense of 77 pages of complex text, IP negotiators are meeting in Australia this week and next to try to finalise the treaty.
Experts have already highlighted some big issues with this IP text. Extensive proposals on patents, clinical test data and the links between patent law and processes for approving pharmaceutical products, if agreed, look like creating barriers to access to medicines in the region. There are unprecedented proposals to criminalise certain kinds of unauthorised access to or use of trade secrets that, at their broadest, could threaten journalism and whistleblowers.
Extensive criminal and civil enforcement provisions are also there. Some extraordinarily long copyright terms – yes, longer even than we already have here in Australia – are still on the table. Less widely commented on are proposals – not surprisingly opposed by Australia – that would demand changes to our local IP rules, especially in the area of trademark law (with special and potentially very broad protection for famous brands) and in our protection of industrial designs. What’s striking about this is how little has been learnt from the past.

If you are interested in how TPP may complicate efforts to protect the environment, do read my analysis over at Japan Focus:


The documents reveal that Japan plays a major role in obstructing the progress of the Environment Chapter. Japan is “concerned” with the language relating to equivalency in the scope of the coverage, that is, the question of how a country may deal with imported products that are identical or almost identical with domestically produced products. For example, imported timber from tropical forests would compete with “similar” wood products produced domestically, unless rules are in place to prevent this. Without international rules, it would be impossible for an importing country to compete with countries that export wood products manufactured by corporations that engage in clear-cutting. Increased trade in such timber would lead to even more destruction of rainforests, and less ability to control the corporations that engage in unsustainable logging practices. Efforts to label genetically modified organisms (GMO) and provide consumers with information about how food has been produced could also be curbed.

On the other hand, we learn that Japan has joined all other nations in opposing a proposal by the United States related to how to address other environmental agreements. This is connected to whether or not the novel dispute settlement mechanism in the TPP should be implemented. The United States, which has refused to ratify many global environmental agreements, seeks to settle trade conflicts in the TPP rather than the WTO. This could make it difficult for countries like Japan to maintain stricter domestic legislation that resulted from having ratified other environmental agreements.

Still, there has not been a single proper round of negotiations held in Japan. 

There are a lot of critics here, and before Japan’s trade officials sign anything, it ought to be discussed in public. Or maybe it will just fizzle out, as the United States heads towards mid-term elections, and no support seems to be forthcoming to support TPP in Congress? Why should people in Japan and their elected representatives not have the same rights to democratically discuss a major trade deal? 


Oct. 27, 2014 - Updated 12:59 UTC+9
The Japanese and US chief negotiators for the projected Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement met in Sydney on Monday. But they were unable to break the deadlock in trade negotiations between the 2 nations.
Japan's Economic Revitalization Minister Akira Amari met US Trade Representative Michael Froman, shortly before the final day session of the 3-day talks. 12 countries are participating in the TPP negotiations.
They apparently failed to achieve a breakthrough on key areas, including removal of tariffs on 5 agricultural categories.
After the meeting, Amari told reporters the 2 sides will continue with working-level talks in an aim to narrow their differences.
He said much progress has been made since the bilateral ministerial meeting in Washington last month.
But he said difficult issues remain, and agreement is not yet in sight.
Amari also said the 2 countries are in the final phase of the negotiations and that the talks will likely become more difficult. He added both sides will step up their efforts.
Amari indicated that he will meet Froman again before the summit talks of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing in November.

Comments

Pandabonium said…
Secret negotiations which will lead to a corporate treaty that can override local laws. The news media, such as it is, glosses over the important facts and misleads people into thinking it is only a question of rice vs meat. Thankfully we have wikileaks and independent news on the internet.

No to TPP. No to corporate control of our lives.

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