TPPWatch Action Bulletin #16 – 29 August 2012

Trade Minister Tim Groser bids for top-dog role in the WTO

NZ’s Trade Minister and #1 TPP cheer leader is running for Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.  Hopefully he gets the job and passes responsibility for the TPP to someone less ideologically blinkered and more willing to advance the interests of the New Zealand public.

Big tobacco launches offensive on plain packaging

Last week the High Court of Australia humiliated Big Tobacco by striking down a constitutional challenge to Australia’s right to introduce plain packaging of tobacco. In NZ Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia praised the decision, but the fight is far from over in either country. Big Tobacco launched a “charm” offensive here using social media and a flashy website, bypassing tobacco advertising restrictions with claims they simply want to protect the right to use their legal branding. Behind them are barely veiled threats of legal action at the WTO and under investment treaties if New Zealand proceeds with plain packaging. Phillip Morris already has a lawsuit against Australia, soon to begin in a secret investment arbitration hearing in Singapore, using investor-state enforcement under an investment agreed with Hong Kong. A similar lawsuit against NZ would also have to find a back door way to use an existing treaty; Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions in the TPP would let them stroll through the front door.

Green Parties in NZ, Oz and Canada take a stand against the TPP

The Green parties in New Zealand, Australia, and Canada have issued a joint statement slamming the secrecy of the negotitations and expressing concern about the impact a completed TPP would have on healthcare, the environment, internet freedom, and access to information. It’s good to see political parties taking a stance on the TPP; long may they continue. Hopefully Labour will follow suit at its conference in November.

Australian Green Party calls for transparency of negotiations

New Zealand Greens might follow the Australian Greens’ example by tabling a proposal in Parliament asking for TPP negotiations to be made public. A separate motion asked Australian negotiators to support the strong provision pushed by New Zealand to protect the public interest from harsh intellectual property laws (similarly, New Zealand has left Australia out in the cold for rejecting Investor-States disputes). Although both motions failed, they were worth a shot. If the Greens did the same here they might have better fortunes, given Labour’s support for better process around the TPP.

The Warehouse speak out against TPP’s ban on parallel imports

Mark Powell, Chief Executive of The Warehouse, has come out strongly against the parallel import provisions in the leaked TPPA intellectual property chapter. He was right that banning parallel importing is nothing to do with free trade; instead, it restricts trade for the benefit of overseas companies who set different prices for the same products in different countries. The import-dependent nature of the Warehouse makes Trade Minister Groser’s frequent complaint that all opponents to the TPPA are “anti-trade” seem pretty silly.

US Congress Heavyweight Chats Up PM Key

The trade lobby continued its lobbying. US Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus met with John Key to talk up the benefits of the TPP, doubtless pushing his goal for a TPP to ‘break down trade barriers and achieve new market access for US exporters that would help create American jobs’. Of course what is good the US will also be good for us … The trip by US IP negotiators to Wellington has been deferred, probably til early Novermber.

Weekly TPPA protests outside the Japanese Prime Minister’s office

Baucus went from NZ to Japan, to convince Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to apply formally to join the negotiations, on terms that the US approves. Since April this year thousands of people have been holding weekly protests against nuclear power outside Noda’s office every Friday. Creative Japanese activists have begun holding similar anti-TPP protests each Thursday, making it clear that Noda’s already vulnerable government will face the wrath of a wide range of constituencies, as well as further defections from his party, if he proceeds.

Government back-tracks over software patents in preparation for TPPA

What could make a government do a complete 180 on a policy decision widely supported by industry and endorsed by Select Committee? The demands of the United States in the TPP of course! In a move that can only be explained as shifting NZ towards the leaked  US Intellectual Property negotiating position, the government has tabled amendments to the Patents Bill – most importantly, reversing the decision that software will not be patentable. The New Zealand Open Source Society succinctly says the government is throwing kiwi software developers under a bus.

Creative Freedom Foundation speaks out against TPP copyright provisions

In similar vein, Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, Director of NZ’s Creative Freedom Foundation voiced her opposition to the TPP, in particular the extension of copyright terms. Writing for the popular online magazine The Big Idea, she fears a TPP will restrict artists’ ability to build on existing works by eroding the public domain and tightening Fair Dealing exceptions. Bronwyn also reiterates a concern raised by the Librarian and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA)   that the TPP would prevent libraries by preserving information by transferring them onto different formats (i.e. VHS to DVD).

Next round in Leesburg, Virginia 6-15 September

Plans are afoot for another high impact campaign at the next round inside and outside the negotiations, leaving no doubt that the TPP is a lousy deal. Watch the website, scoop, facebook …

Headsup – Public Health expert visiting late September

Deb Gleeson, an public health specialist, has helped spearhead  Australia’s public health debate on the TPP. Deb is Convener of the Political Economy of Health Special Interest Group of the Public Health Association of Australia. She will be in Auckland and Wellington at the end of September. Mark off 24 and 25th in Auckland and 26th and 27th in Wellington. More details in the next bulletin or contact Marilyn Head from NZNO.

Other resources:

More information on tobacco: Professor Jane Kelsey’s presentation for the Tobacco Control Research Tūranga: audio and powerpoint.

Please share TPPA activities or good articles:

contact Stephen Parry stephenparry1985@gmail.com; Facebook page, Stop Stealing New Zealand; and websites www.tppwatch.org and tppdigest.org


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