Intellectual property is especially important to Hollywood and US pharmaceutical, biotechnology and entertainment corporations, which have a strong influence over the Obama Administration’s trade policy. Their influence is seen throughout the draft document.
A large section reveals the battle between the US pharmaceutical lobby and countries such as New Zealand that want to continue to buy cheaper generic medicines. The US negotiators have inserted several pages of measures to help maintain and extend the dominant position of big pharmaceutical companies. Only the US supported these proposals while Australia, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei opposed them in full.
New Zealand is the lead nation for a series of alternative proposals to “adopt and maintain measures to encourage the timely entry of pharmaceutical products to the market”. Canada, Singapore, Chile, Malaysia and Vietnam join New Zealand in proposing rules that would avoid blocks to generic medicines.
Since this text was written US Trade Representative Michael Froman has publicly proposed giving developing countries a phase-in period if they accept the US-promoted pharmaceutical rules, but this would give no relief to New Zealand.
Other areas of dispute are provisions that would require internet service providers to enforce copyright of behalf of foreign corporations, including closing down their customers’ accounts; overseas royalty payments on all books, music and movies for 20 years longer than at present; restricting cheaper parallel importing; imposing penalties for breaking “digital locks” such as regional zones on lawful DVDs; allowing plants and animals to be patented; and allowing “diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods for the treatment of humans or animals” to be patented.
There is also dispute over agricultural chemicals.
A target of Christmas for concluding the agreement was set by President Barack Obama last year and was reconfirmed at the TPP leaders’ meeting in Bali in October.
However the wide differences evident between the US and New Zealand mean someone would have to back down on national interest provisions – or the US back down – for there to be any prospect of the agreement being concluded. More than 100 issues are unresolved.
A coalition of groups, ranging from Internet New Zealand to Trade Me and the Library Association, have opposed the agreement. The Fairdeal Coalition’s spokeswoman Susan Chalmers said the New Zealand negotiators have been sticking up for the country and called on the Government to support them.
“If New Zealand caves on the intellectual property chapter,” she said, “it will face inevitable economic, cultural and social losses that in the long-term will likely outweigh any gains from improved agricultural access.”
An earlier WikiLeaks release of US embassy cables showed former New Zealand chief TPP negotiator Mark Sinclair privately telling visiting US State Department Deputy Assistant Frankie Reed in February 2010 that there were “a number of areas sensitive to New Zealand” in the TPP talks and pharmaceuticals were “bound to be a contentious issue”.