Guest Report: Second Day of TPP Negotiations in Auckland

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

What I learned today in school The Trans Pacific Partnership Auckland Round IV Stakeholders briefing:

It was truly unfortunate that due to scheduling conflicts, the meeting to tell us that we can’t be told anything of substance was moved to 2:15 pm, allowing only fifteen minutes for the lack of significant communication.

Today’s meeting was better attended than yesterday’s. No surprise, as this meeting was the less informative of the only two things on the menu of options for stakeholders today. The other stakeholder friendly happening was an interesting review by Bill Rosenberg of the NZ Council for Trade Unions on those provisions (many) of the TPPA (if history is truly a teacher) effecting (and possibly affecting) labour.

This begs the question, and a scary one it is, that, assuming TPPA got passed, would the very fact of *allowing* labour rights in a member nation possibly be seen as a form of uncompetitive behaviour and thus an actionable offence?

Only those privileged who can see the sekrit text know for sure. If they just made the text public, we could sooner be relived of these niggling concerns.

Back to our fifteen, er, 11 minute meeting. 11 actually, as the first point of contention which lasted for those precious four minutes of our allotted time, is what time can they not tell us anything important tomorrow? Rest assured, our hosts are truly quite busy and finding 15 minutes to tell concerned New Zealanders, uh… well, not much, really takes precious time out of a busy day.

A one page document was circulated, mostly synopsising the topics that were being covered today. Just the names of the topics.

Of note:

  • Horizontal issues aren’t really under active negotiation yet and one gets the impression the various delegations are still defining the term.
  • Of the issues listed on the magic (unclassified) document, progress varies. The room was nearly overwhelmed by this revelation.
  • The Financial services text is (likely?) being based on the P4 text with the USA from 2008, updating it with inputs from the other countries, with a likelyhood of (sekrit) full text by the end of the week in terms of inputs from all TPP countries.
  • After that, the tricksy bits start as there has to be functional convergence of the text (the editing of the Aegean stables). Officially, no report back, yet.
  • There have (allegedly) been no changes to the financial services chapter due to the (alleged) World Financial Crisis. Current thoughts are that (or may be, if there are thoughts) that not constraining the (alleged) freedom to take econimic action to address urgencies or make regulatory changes (which a lot of govs do) is the best course for now.
  • Please note that capital controls haven’t been flagged as an issue, but our host is not following the detail of the financial services negotiation line by line.
  • The (alleged) investments text has P4 text, again from the USA 2008 text. Alas, due to the need for secrecy stakeholders aren’t allowed to know the state of play on each chapter. ISDS was part of the P4+ USA agenda.
  • It is not clear if PTT is a spare P4 style or full USFTA style eventual document. Apparently, while there is reasonable commonality on substance, there is no telling precisely how aggressive the more litigious countries might be on developing painful, voluminous levels of detail and just what level of prescriptiveness can be indulged.
  • There is no update to intellectual services yet, which is to day no advance in text over 2008. This is expected to change by Friday.
  • Further, even the chapter structure is not tied down yet. It’s by issue at the moment.

In fact, at this point we have no idea what the final (sekrit) document will look like. A thin volume of a thousand pages, a major tour-de-force of a million pages, a fourteen hour epic interpretation of USFTA done as interpretive dance? No one can even hazard a guess and it is up to those louder, more aggressive, more pedantic countries to call the shots. Sure, the basics (templates) are pretty standard stuff but some countries want severely stronger specificity.

That is all from Auckland, as there is no fancy soiree tonight. Not that the stakeholders know of, anyway….