Guest Report: First Day of TPP Negotiations in Auckland

Guest post with commentary on the first day at the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations in Auckland.

I’m here participating in the Stakeholder Events Programme.

We stakeholders are easily recognisable by our bright red lanyards which – if we try to get near any of the rooms the actual negotiations are going on in – are a dead giveaway to the security guards to keep us out, as all negotiators have blue lanyards. Yes – discrimination based on colour.

According to the special negotiators only programme someone left lying about, the negotiators have 10 seperate, simultaneous tracks, breaking down into:

  • Horizontal Issues
  • Goods
  • Intellectual Property
  • P4 TBT
  • Financial Services
  • Presentations
  • Customs
  • Business Mobility
  • Labour
  • Legal and institutional

Rumour has it the US has at least 80 participants in Auckland. As with the actual working text of the potential agreement, this can’t actually be verified.

The participatory fare for stakeholders is not nearly so robust- from 12:30-2 PM there was a presentation called Walking the Talk New Generation Business Issues in the Trans Pacific Partnership sponsored by the NZ US Council, the Singapore Business Federation and the US Chamber of Commerce.

I went to this – they did offer lunch – and got as far as the intro talk which made it abundantly clear it would be a pro-TPP rah-rah session and then I ducked quickly across the hallway to be with the… more cerebral, very concerned and far less well catered stakeholders at the Critical Issues with the TPPA panel, and an excellent panel it was. Speakers included:

  • Sanya Smith, a Senior Researcher and veritable fountain of trade facts from the Third World Network in Geneva,
  • Dr. Jane Kelsey, Law Professor from the University of Auckland
  • Andrew Campbell, Campaigns Director from the FINSEC union.

Speakers all seemed very factually orentated and focused on the risks of TPP, with each one of them voicing concerns about the lack of transparency a theme that would be frequently revisited throughout the day.

Please note, Jane Kelsey recently edited a book (No Ordinary Deal, UnMasking the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement) on the risks and dangers of TPP that has contributions by 19 noted contributors and it is apparently chock full of interesting points on TPPA.

Next up was an NZ Stakeholders update from M.E.D., where the question of transparency was repeatedly raised by stakeholders with no response other than, bascially, the old ACTA shuffle: Some (unnamed) country/ies object to revealing the working text at this point and no, this point is not negotiable. Nothing of note was said at the session, and it was repeated in a variety of ways.

After this was the Stakeholders presentations to the press corps, in which the 13 or so stakeholders willing to face the 28-or-so members fo the international press each got two minutes to present their organisation and platform.

The topic of transparency was again a oft repeated topic during the stakeholder presentations, with Stephen Jacobi of the NZUS Council vigorously – even aggressively – defending the need for secrecy, even to the point of saying early release of the incomplete drafts would play into (the TPP cautious stakeholders) hands and guarantee failure of the process.

See above comment regarding the ACTA shuffle.

In any case, later in the afternoon there was the typical wine, beer and hors’ douveres reception for all involved. Much drinking and eating of small nibbbly bits ensued, with people mingling freely across interest boundaries. As is the tradition, nothing of great substance was (publically) discussed and most convos were either stakeholders talking about their organizations’ postions, negotiators being vague, or World Cup 2011.

Back into the fray at 08:00.