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Trans-Pacific Partnership: An FTA with fangs

Posted on May 21, 2010

In the last few years, New Zealand law governing intellectual property has been in a state of flux driven by the content industry demanding changes to protect their business. No sooner has one set of law changes been debated then another set of the same laws and demands pops up into view. From S92 of the Copyright Act to the ACTA treaty and now to the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The TPP is an existing free trade agreement (FTA) between NZ, Singapore, Brunei and Chile signed in 2005. The TPP allows for more countries to join and the USA, Australia, Vietnam and Peru have all indicated that they are interested. Substantive negotiations began in March.

Of course, the USA has proceeded to reframe the agreement around its usual default template for any FTA - draconian IP protection on behalf of its content industries and limited concessions in all other areas, creating a one-sided arrangement. As Australia experienced in its FTA negotiations with the US, it's not about a meeting of mutual interests but a game of how much wiggle room can be found on the edge of the US demands.

New Zealand has long sought a free trade deal with the US (our second largest export market). In theory it means that our agricultural exports will have an easier time in a large market, but the powerful US agricultural lobby will limit this while changes to IP law will mean an increase in transfers from NZ users to US owners. However, even if the result is actually a net loss to New Zealanders, an FTA with the US is a "win" politically.

S92. ACTA. TPP. Once again the battle is on to defend our rights as both consumers and producers of IP before our laws are rewritten to suit the US.

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