Why you should join the TPPA Action on 8 November

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On 8 November 2014, thousands of Kiwis will take part in the International Day of Action to protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The rally cry for us is TPPA – Corporate Trap, Kiwis Fight Back.

Why should you join us?

The latest version of intellectual property chapter, leaked last week, is a timely reminder of what’s at stake. This confirmed that the US has backed off some demands, such as the ban on parallel importing, because its own courts said ruled in favour of parallel imports. It has toned down some other demands, such as criminalising those who break the regional digital locks on DVDs, in the face of a concerted campaign for Internet freedom.

But the leak showed two major risks for New Zealand are still on the table.

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Big Pharma wants to lock up access to information on new generation biologics medicines to treat cancer, diabetes and other crippling illnesses in New Zealand for a further three or even seven years. That means they reap their megaprofits for longer. Pharmac would have to reallocate funds from its capped budget to pay for them or face a political and public backlash for not subsidising the super-expensive new life saving medicines.  Think Herceptin.

Copyright protection is also likely to rise from the life of the author and 50 years to life plus 70 years. Forget claims about fair returns for the creator – they are long dead. This is known as the Mickey Mouse clause, so the likes of Disney whose legal rights are about to run out can keep reeling in the royalties. The Association of Libraries ….

Do I hear you sigh? Heard this all before? I couldn’t agree more. But remember the US has had to back down on various demands because of the enormous pressure on our and other negotiators. Silence begets surrender.

There is a much bigger long-term reason to fight the TPPA. It is just one of three mega deals currently being negotiated.  Their common aim is to lock the world into a failed neoliberal regime to benefit corporate greed. These so-called 21st century deals project their future, not ours.

The terrible twin of TPPA is a deal being negotiated between the US and EU, known as TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). Imagine what kind of rules the US and EU will agree on! Already TTIP has sparked protests throughout Europe, especially on the right of foreign investors to sue the governments. Vattenfall’s two disputes against Germany over climate change mitigation measures and closure of nuclear power plants has made the risks very real.

The third leg of the trifecta is the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). Think of this as the bastard child of the GATS – the services agreement at the World Trade Organisation that Kiwis, among many others, protested against in the early 2000s. Negotiations in the WTO to get tighter rules that would benefit the world’s services transnationals, from banks and entertainment to accounting firms and water companies, have been paralysed for years.

So 23 parties, including New Zealand, are stitching up their own deal through the back door. The stated goal is to bring TISA back into the WTO and force it on countries like India, Brazil and South Africa that have held out in the GATS 2000 negotiations.

Australia has been hosting the TISA talks under a commitment to secrecy that’s even more excessive than the TPPA. You might remember the financial services text was leaked several months ago. As with the TPPA, there are bound to be more.

I’m just on my way back from two meetings in Geneva that reinforce the need to stop this package through opposition on a global scale.

The annual World Investment Forum 2014 at UNCTAD had the telling title of Reform of the IIA Regime. The session on investor state dispute settlement was standing room only. Governments like Argentina, South Africa, Namibia, Slovakia and India, who are victims of ISDS disputes, spoke passionately about the abuse of these treaties and attacks on their sovereign right to regulate in the national interest. They debunked claims that these agreements attracted foreign investment that benefit them. Several confirmed they are terminating some existing agreements, seeking to renegotiate others, and developing national investment laws as viable alternatives.

The corporate lobbies from the US and Europe, and their patron states, insisted there were minor problems with the investment regime that could be resolved by tweaking –along the lines of what is being proposed in the TPPA and TTIP.

This debate is fast gaining momentum. But it will be several more years before the ground shifts far enough to achieve the critical mass that is needed to force a total overhaul of the investment regime. The last thing countries should be doing is locking themselves into more of these investment deals through treaties like the TPPA – especially New Zealand, which currently has limited exposure to these risks.

The second event was a forum organised by Public Services International, among others, to educate national activists and Geneva-based government delegations about the dangers of TISA. Our presentations drew belligerent reactions from the countries belonging to the Very Good Friends of Services, as those promoting TISA call themselves. It made the tone of the TPPA negotiations seem almost convivial, and showed how ideologically determined they are to tighten the noose of neoliberalism. What they can’t get in one agreement they will try for in another.

The TPPA is the longest running of these deals. Negotiations began four and a half years. They seem to be at a perpetual tipping point. What happens in the next month will be crucial. Obama announced some months ago that he wanted some kind of deal to announce public when the APEC, and TPPA, leaders meet around 10 November – in China! US officials repeated last week that they want to announce ‘something close to conclusion’. That seems implausible, with the US and Japan still deadlocked over agriculture. A series of meetings have just begun in Australia in an attempt to pull off the seemingly impossible.

Yet another failed deadline will pose huge credibility problems for the politicians, who have to justify pouring more taxpayers’ money down the TPPA hole. It will also be soul destroying for many of the negotiators who are heartily sick of the process.

But the prospect of another year or more of negotiations is also a problem for critics of the TPPA. The greatest risk is popular fatigue and media disinterest. That is why we need you to send an uncompromising message to John Key and Tim Groser – sign the new petition on the itsourfuture.org.nz website – and join us on 8 November somewhere around the country! Details are on the website,  facebook or #TPPAnoway.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Signed with great difficulty, itsourfuture.org.nz need to sort the site problems out if they don’t want people giving up in frustration.

  2. Thanks for your continued efforts in this area Professor Kelsey. I’ve signed the petition with no problems whatsoever. I’ll also be advising everybody I know to do the same.

    My attendance at the protest is assured, wouldn’t miss it. We need to send a clear message that this deal is a bad idea for New Zealand. Our national sovereignty being undermined is never good, regardless of what short-term trade benefits are supposed to come from it. The benefits almost never eventuate and even if they did what would be worth selling off your countries ability to make it’s own laws?

    • The substantial rise in trade with China since the previous Labour government signed the China free trade agreement would suggest otherwise.

      • A substantial rise in trade that has undermined the position of workers in New Zealand by requiring them to compete for jobs against those in China who are made to work 18 hour days for little to no money? The stripping of workers rights to match the lack of them in China? Those trade benefits?

        Or are you referring to increase in profits for New Zealand exporters, little to none of which go any further than the top 10% of the already stupidly wealthy?

        An increase in trade doesn’t mean a better quality of life.

  3. Hi,

    I won’t march I’m afraid. While I have no doubt there are thorns in it this piece of trade agreement seems no more odious to me than many others. And the two features you single out for particular bile, are both neither black nor white.

    First copyright protection. Increasing it to harmonise with the American standard is a minor matter in our case. Lifetime plus fifty years to lifetime plus seventy, is no huge crisis. And in my case as a kiwi author I would prefer it to be longer. Yes I may be dead by the time this change kicks in (obviously) but the income from my writing goes to my descendants. This is no different to my building a house and leaving it to them, or building a bank account and doing the same. Would you not be pissed off if fifty years after you died the house you left to your children etc was taken away from them? The investments you left behind were stripped away?

    And the big pharma issue comes with fish hooks a plenty as well. Like it or not drug companies make money from their drugs. Some make a lot, some less. But in return they provide a service ie R and D for the development of new drugs. An R and D is horrendously expensive. Now take away some of the potential profits they make from a new drug development, and you have to ask yourself, would all those new drugs and all that R and D still be done?

    So instead of herceptin think instead about PBT 2. A new drug currently undergoing trialing for use in treatment of alzheimers and movement disorders. The company Prana has to raise funds – that means securing investors – to do the trials. Would they be able to raise the same funds if the profit incentive was not as great? Or would many experimental drugs like PBT 2 simply not see the light of day?

    Cheers, Greg.

    • I believe many people here would prefer it if there was no profit motive involved in drug production and it was all funded via taxes. Of course that would likely stiffle innovation and development of new treatments as evidenced by the fact that private sector pharmaceutical companies have generally been the ones producing new treatments.

    • Readers, please refer to our other comment. We posted the assertion that this blog article would provoke non-marching on certain grounds, and here is a non-marcher (Greg) citing those same basic grounds.
      We see a debate emerging where ‘to march, or not to march’ is the question, when really it should be ‘what is more effective than marching?’ (as marching will ultimately be ignored).
      #debatecontainment

      • Well, our other comment didn’t make it through moderation. So here it is again:-
        Message of the article in the first 100 words: TPPA is not as bad as was feared, according to the available evidence. So while the author says people should march on the 8th, those sitting on the fence may not, and nobody’s going to do anything MORE than just marching, which the Key administration will ignore anyway. And if it’s raining on the day – ha ha ha!!
        With leadership like this – and we’re talking about THE Jane Kelsey, after all – I’m gonna call it: NZ is screwed.
        NZ will soon be an official satellite state of the US, the greatest terrorist organisation in the history of the world, with the silent or at best ‘nah-I-mean-yeah’ consent of the population.
        Woopy fricken doo. What a show it will be. Embrace your slavery, Kiwis!

        • You seem to be waving the flag of the defeatist. You’ve already given up all chance of success before you’ve started.

          Might I suggest that inaction will lead to certain defeat, action may change the outcome. By propagating the idea that it’s all over you’re only helping the very forces you seem to dislike so much.

          I want to be on the same team as you, but I’d need to know you hadn’t already lain down with the opposing side by giving up.

  4. May I suggest you read Ben Goldacre’s book, “Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients”?

  5. Globalization and economies of scale along with never ending growth (an oxymoron if ever there was one) are biggest crocks of shit we have ever been sold.

  6. The first thing my late father told me when I was old enough to sign contracts was to NEVER sign without reading everything, even the small print. The second thing was to never sign anything on the advice of someone else who had much to gain by you signing the document… the third thing was, never enter into a contract with someone whose integrity is questionable.

    Pity John Key’s parent didn’t give him the same advice – but then I guess he is much to gain and nothing to lose by us signing the TPPA.

  7. The biggest problem is that this TPPA seems of remote interest to the public .
    This is because they perceive it as some remote economic agreement that is happening outside of their private realm.

    BUT..if only they understood the longterm impact it’s going to have on all our lives, in REAL terms..
    People need to grasp that once we’re “locked in” (ie it has been signed), that this means corporations will RULE us. Sovereignty will be a thing of the past. It pretty much is already.
    Corporations exist only for profit. Anything that is an obstacle will be eliminated.
    Here are some longterm implications-
    One day people will not be allowed to have their own vegetable gardens (already happening in some parts of the usa)-because all sorts of new ludicrous by laws will be introduced.
    It will become illegal to collect rainwater (already true in some usa states)
    People will not be able to have markets & food fairs (by introducing lots of bylaws..using “food safety” as the excuse (already begun)
    It will become illegal to grow certain plants (eg for herbal remedies)-already happening in Australia
    Access to nutritional supplements will be made more & more difficult, with some being completely forbidden (already happening)
    These are just a few things I can think of, but you get the picture.
    All in all, our freedoms will be taken away bit by bit, as we are bound by increasing rules and regulations and forced to exist totally dependent on corporations and be under tyrannical rule.
    Sounds crazy & far-fetched?
    Well 25 years ago nobody would have believed that we’d all be living under surveillance now. What do you think that’s really all about.
    In usa the Constitution is gradually being dismantled/ursurped. A very disturbing sign. Same will happen to NZs Bill of Rights…

  8. Great, informative article. We’ll be there marching, thanks Prof Kelsey for your hard work and erudite descriptions of the issues at stake.

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