Lobby group formed to force openness on free trade agreement

'Sign-on campaign' reminiscent of Public ACTA movement

Following Professor Jane Kelsey's plea for greater openness in negotiations around the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement (TPPA), a lobby consisting of trade unionists and others and calling itself TPP Watch has launched an online petition to force release of the interim text of the treaty as it is negotiated.

The “sign-on campaign” is similar to that launched by the PublicACTA movement in respect of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement last year, in that it encourages people to add their names through a website to the list of local people supporting release.

The PublicACTA initiative and similar agitation overseas resulted in the official release of drafts of the ACTA treaty, parts of which had already been leaked many times.

There has already been one leak of a document summarising the New Zealand delegation’s position on the TPPA.

ACTA agitation centred on stringent proposals for the punishment of alleged illegal online downloaders and uploaders of copyright material, and Kelsey concentrated her TPPA concerns on the possibility that internet service providers would be held liable for the offences of their customers on that front.

The TPP Watch movement, however, takes a broader perspective on TPPA, pointing to possible detrimental overseas influence on New Zealand’s foreign investment regulations and the potential for manipulation of prices for medicines including possible interference with the role of Pharmac.

“We understand that the proposed TPPA would intrude far behind our national borders to not only restrict our financial regulation and grant new rights for foreign investors, but also limit how things like healthcare, energy, natural resources and culture will be regulated; how our tax dollars may be spent; what sort of food safety and labelling will be allowed; whether medicines will remain affordable; and more,” says an open letter to Prime Minister John Key attached to the petition.

Commentators on the site refer to the likelihood of changes in intellectual property rights over music, literature and Maori taonga, but as at January 19 there were no comments from an ICT industry point of view.

ICT and intellectual property lawyer Rick Shera, however, sounded a note of caution last year that what had been won in respect of downloading with ACTA, might be lost with TPPA.

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Tags ACTATrans Pacific Partnership

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