There’s been plenty of developments in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the last week which is worth noting. Malaysia is currently rejecting the TPP. Meanwhile, the Australian government is getting a fresh round of criticisms from opposition parties over the latest revelations from the recent leak.
Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement that would, among other things, institute a global ISP level regime and three strikes law, allow corporations of any kind to operate above a countries local laws so long as their headquarters is located outside the country and further restrict limitations afforded to consumers in various countries (and that’s likely just the tip of the iceberg), has been back in the news once again for a number of reasons.
We begin with the more dramatic developments coming out of Malaysia where the country is reportedly getting increasingly sceptical of the agreement altogether. From The Sun Daily:
Malaysia is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) which seeks to extend the patent periods of medicines by foreign companies.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the agreement, which is being negotiated among eleven countries including the US and Malaysia, would be detrimental to the local medical industry.
“We are against the patent extension. According to the agreement, if a medicine is launched in the US, and then three years later it is launched in Malaysia, the patent would start from when it is launched here and not when it was launched earlier in the US,” said Liow. “This is not fair.”
He stressed that the agreement would in effect make healthcare less affordable to the public.
Malaysia is not the first jurisdiction to possibly want out of the TPP as some municipalities and even a whole territory in Canada have been voicing either their concerns or want to be exempt altogether from the agreement. However, Malaysia may be the first country to announce their opposition to the agreement. It’s significant because there now are signs that cracks from within the agreement are steadily growing as negotiations go along. Signs of cracks and divisions within the TPP have surfaced since June, but they were never so pronounced that a countries government is publicly announcing their opposition altogether before to my knowledge.
Meanwhile, the TPP is causing major political headaches in Australia. It is seemingly mirroring the kind of political turmoil seen in New Zealand from back in June. The Australian Green Party is pressing the government on why it’s simply towing the US line in the agreement. From Computerworld:
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has slammed the federal government for continuing to pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is currently undergoing negotiation.
Ludlam stated the Federal Government is “hell-bent” on locking Australia into a dead-end copyright treaty.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, if the USA gets its way, will cause huge problems for Australians, but our Federal Government is backing Washington to the hilt,” he said in a statement.
“Not content with supporting the ill-fated Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement [ACTA], which would endanger the legal status of generic medicines and was overwhelmingly rejected by the European Parliament, the trade minister is now pushing for an Agreement that offers no protection for copyright exceptions enshrined in Australian law.
“ACTA was an absolute dud, and the Government wanted to jump on board before the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry had even warmed up.”
The charges have thrown the Australian government onto the defensive as they try to defend their record on the TPP. From ITNews:
a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) argued that Australia’s support for copyright limitations and exceptions was consistent with “existing international obligations”.
While not denying the substance of the leaks, she said the discussion on limitations and exceptions were still under negotiation. Revised text on copyright limitations and exceptions has been tabled as recently as the last round, in July 2012.
The spokeswoman said Australia would not accept an outcome in the TPP that reduced its ability to enact copyright limitations and exceptions under Australian domestic law.
“Australia’s positions in the intellectual property chapter have been, and continue to be, informed by a wide range of relevant stakeholder views and perspectives,” she said.
The Attorney-General’s Department has undertaken a review on the technological protection measures available to Australians to bypass copyright measures, such as removing region coding on DVDs.
While the Australian government has been trying to find ways of calming the critics of the TPP by deflecting criticisms against it, it also seems to be scrambling to justify the TPP in the first place. One option the government is considering is a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis. This seems to be a direct response to the the Pirate Party of Australia who, back in May, argued that the TPP has no economic benefits at all. Of course, the natural question for me would be, why did the Australian government wait all this time before trying to find reasons why the TPP is suppose to be all good for the Australian people? Wouldn’t it have made sense to look at the earliest proposals and try to figure out what’s in it for Australia before signing up and being a part of the negotiation for all these years? to me, it’s a little backwards to sign up for an agreement, negotiate the provisions, pretty much agree with everything the US is saying, ratify it, then figure out why the agreement is good for Australia.
Japan, interestingly enough, is also having second thoughts on the TPP in general. While it seems that the Japanese government is interested in the TPP, there is hesitation on joining the talks due to domestic political reasons – namely the fear of politicians from the governing party defecting in protest of the TPP. From Yomiuri:
Amid prolonged political turmoil, it has become nearly impossible for Japan to join talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord before the end of this year.
To take part in the round of TPP negotiations scheduled for early December–the last for this year–the government and ruling parties must reach a consensus by the end of August, as it will take 90 days for the U.S. Congress to approve Japan’s entry.
The government had planned to make quick preparations for joining the TPP talks by coordinating opinions among relevant bodies after enacting bills on the integrated reform of the social security and tax systems. An official announcement regarding Japan’s participation had been planned for a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum scheduled for September or another occasion.
However, at Wednesday’s meeting between Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and main opposition leaders–Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki and New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi–Noda referred to an early dissolution of the House of Representatives.
Many within the ruling Democratic Party of Japan remain cautious regarding the TPP issue. If the government pushes ahead with the talks, more lawmakers may leave the ruling parties in addition to those who left to oppose the integrated reform bills.
Overall, it seems that with growing local backlash for each of these countries either thinking of joining the TPP negotiations or are already in them, the perceived value of being a part of the TPP has been gradually diminishing for those countries. While corporate interests may have driven these countries to the negotiating table, public outcry might be starting to pull these countries back away from the table.