After the first day of another round of secret talks in Singapore on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement wrapped, WikiLeaks released two documents it said “show the state of negotiations” among the twelve negotiating countries.
One of the documents described the “state of play” after talks in Salt Lake City, Utah, from November 19 to November 24. It was edited to “protect the identity of the author country,” which provided details on negotiations to the media organization.
“It should be mentioned that the US is exerting great pressure to close as many issues as possible this week,” the document reads. “[U.S. Chief] met with all twelve countries and said that they were not progressing according to plan.”
There was strong pressure to resolve many outstanding issues before talks in Singapore on “access for goods (text), e-commerce, investment, TBT and Public Procurement (text).”
Large differences on how to handle “intellectual property” persisted and introduced “serious doubts” as to what would happen in Singapore.
Discussions on the environment went nowhere because the countries could not agree on the definition of “environmental law.”
On financial services, “positions” were “still paralyzed.” The US showed “zero flexibility.” And, as for the issue of agricultural export subsidies, “all TPP countries except the US are committed to eliminating them.
Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam are the eleven countries participating in negotiations on the TPP with the US.
There is only a minimal amount of information available on the agreement being negotiated, but, on November 13, WikiLeaks published a draft chapter of the section of the agreement on intellectual property. It revealed quite a bit about the lack of success the US was having as it met resistance to many of its extreme proposals being offered on behalf of US corporations.
The draft chapter included the positions of countries on provisions of the chapter after talks in Brunei in August. Since then, the US has struggled to persuade countries to support a number of its proposals.
Australia, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand and the US had proposed the “establishment of criminal offenses, penalties and fines for recordings of public works.” Apparently, Australia and New Zealand no longer support this proposal.
The US has been and remains the only country to support its own proposal to establish criminal offenses for “unintentional infringements of copyright, related rights and trademarks.”
All countries, after Salt Lake City, oppose the United States’ current proposals or positions on pharmaceuticals.
When it comes to “term of protection” for copyright and “parallel importation,” only the US accepts the proposals that are being considered.
An example of “parallel importation,” as described by the World Health Organization, is as follows:
…in Mozambique 100 units of Bayer’s ciprofloxacin (500mg) costs US$740, but in India Bayer sells the same drug for US$15 (owing to local generic competition). Mozambique can import the product from India without Bayer’s consent…
Giant US pharmaceutical companies probably do not approve of impoverished Mozambicans being able to get the drugs at a cheaper price so they naturally have advised the US government to press for new regulations that would increase profits (regardless of whether more Mozambicans die from infections).
Only the US supports the “whole chapter” of the agreement on “dispute settlement.” There is also a “US proposal for entry into force,” whatever that might mean—and the US is the only country that supports it.
Japan, Australia and the US are the only countries supportive of an annex that applies to medicines.
Only Australia, Peru and the US support a section on “patentability criteria.” It still has managed to convince no countries to support patents for plants, animals or surgical procedures.
One section of the TPP addresses climate change, and only Australia and the United States support the section.
Public Citizen raised some important questions after Salt Lake City that remain. How will Big Pharma deal with the fact that the US has been unable to convince the other eleven countries to support its demands? Are countries going to suddenly give in to Hollywood and the recording industry on issues of internet freedom?
US Trade Representative Michael Froman is apparently the chief negotiator for the US in the talks.
Negotiations have been conducted in total secrecy because many of these proposals being pushed by the administration of President Barack Obama would never be supported by Americans. In fact, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “23 Republicans and 151 Democrats in the House of Representatives wrote letters to the Obama administration indicating their unwillingness to comply with the Executive’s request for power to fast-track trade agreements through Congress.”
There is a growing movement against “fast-tracking” the legislation, even though there are members of Congress who would like to see the TPP adopted by 2014.
Finally, given what former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has revealed about recent meetings of similar importance, it should be kept in mind that there is a very real possibility the US has negotiators from the eleven countries under close surveillance and will use information collected to coerce them into giving up their positions against some of the more extreme proposals in the agreement.