Jane Kelsey: Why is the US TPPA ‘Implementation Team’ Meddling in NZ?

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Source: Professor Jane Kelsey.

The US Trade Representative Michael Froman has revealed his office is sending teams of officials to the other the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) countries, including New Zealand, to vet their implementation of the intellectual property chapter and other parts of the agreement.[1]

‘ “Implementation” is code for the US making sure it gets what it wants, backed by its power to veto the TPPA’s entry into force if it doesn’t’,  said Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey.

‘This is an outrageous assault on the sovereign right of nations to decide their own laws without interference from other states.’

‘The US is notorious for rewriting the script after negotiations are ‘concluded’ to secure their version of the text when other countries insist they have done what is required.[2]

‘This will come in two stages’, Professor Kelsey explained.  ‘The first we are seeing now. The US says “we can’t possibly get this to the floor of Congress without these changes to what you are doing”.’

‘If Congress votes in favour of its implementing legislation – which at present can’t be assumed – the US comes back again and says “we won’t certify you have complied with your obligations until you do these additional things”.’ The TPPA can’t come into force without US certification.

The USTR is currently trying to ‘fix’ problems that mean the TPPA doesn’t have support in Congress. Froman cites intellectual property as a major point of discussion with other governments, making particular mention of New Zealand’s proposed legislation on patent term extensions.

Ominously, Republican chair of the Senate Finance Committee Orrin Hatch, who decides if and when implementing legislation proceeds, has hardened his stance on monopoly rights for biologics medicines. He announced today that 8 years’ is not enough. He requires 12.[3] But the New Zealand government says the TPPA lets us keep our current 5 years plus some process delays.

Professor Kelsey asked ‘how will we know what pressure the US is bringing to bear on our government and whether it will stand up against US threats when that could sink the deal for New Zealand?’

‘I strongly suspect these fixes will involve administrative measures, not legislation, so there will be no public process even after the fact,’ Professor Kelsey said.

She noted the select committee process was over, based on the existing text. ‘The government must be up front about what the US officials will be doing here and release full documentation of their demands and the government’s response for analysis and debate before any further commitments are made.’ 

[1] ‘Froman: U.S. Sending Out TPP Implementation Teams, Undecided on Fixes’, Inside US Trade, 18 April 2016

[2] See www.tppnocertification.org

[3] ‘Sen Hatch Stands Firm on Biologics’, Washington Trade Daily, 20 April 2016

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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