A meeting of Trans-Pacific Partnership ministers, including Canada's Ed Fast, concluded yesterday in Singapore without the political breakthrough the 12 negotiating countries were hoping for. This is good news. Unfortunately, Washington Trade Daily is reporting that Canada and several other countries have dropped their opposition to some of the United States' most unreasonable TPP demands around intellectual property rights for patents and copyright.
"Over the course of this meeting, we identified potential 'landing zones' for the majority of key outstanding issues in the text," says a United States Trade Representative statement. "We will continue to work with flexibility to finalize these text issues as well as market access issues."
Forbes reports, "The announcement comes as Wikileaks releases an internal memo and spreadsheet, revealing that the US is putting heavy pressure on other nations to conform with its demands." Several Canadian TPP critics, including the Council of Canadians, summarized what those leaks told us about Harper's negotiating position on key issues like intellectual property rights, investment protection, and enforcement of environmental and labour rights in the deal.
While it looked as though Canadian negotiators were resisting many of the worst U.S. demands on patents and copyright, Washington Trade Daily is saying (subscription only) that after the Singapore meeting (December 7-10), "Australia, New Zealand and Canada, among others, dropped their objections to the high-standard disciplines in intellectual property and came on board by agreeing to the modified text [prepared in Salt Lake City in November]."
"Effectively, there is consensus on the intellectual property dossier except for one developing country," WTD was told by sources familiar with what was happening inside the meetings.
"The latest intellectual property draft is premised on very high standards regardless of differing levels of economic development among the participating countries," continues the report. "To enable developing countries to implement the WTO-plus standards, the draft provides a generous transition clause. But the 12 have yet to finalize how the transition period will be determined -- whether on the basis of economic and social indicators prepared by the World Bank or another criterion, WTD was told."
If this is true, and depending on what Canada has agreed to over the course of the three days, it would be a major step-down for the Harper government, though hardly an unexpected one. Given the Conservatives' sellout to brand name drug companies in the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, it is not surprising that Minister Fast would have orders to go even further to help Big Pharma and Big Hollywood profits in the TPP if it helps bring the trans-pacific corporate rights pact to a speedy conclusion.
USTR says it will "continue our intensive work in the coming weeks" and "further our consultations with stakeholders" leading up to an expected January ministerial. Those consultations, like the entire TPP negotiation, will happen behind closed doors and with no meaningful role for the public.
Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, explains today that at the Singapore meeting, "the negotiators' political imperative to 'make a deal' -- any deal -- resulted in a raft of dangerous decisions that would severely threaten consumers' access to affordable medicines, undermine Internet freedom and empower corporations to attack our domestic laws."
"At the meeting, there was an altogether new desperation to lock in a deal because the TPP is in a race against time: as more details emerge weekly about the damage TPP could do to workers, consumers and the environment, grassroots and lawmaker opposition in many countries is growing."
Wallach adds, "At this stage, the draft TPP text must be released so those of us who will live with the results can know just what was this so-called 'progress' entailed, and at whose expense."
Take action -- Demand an end to TPP secrecy!
We should also be demanding an end to the TPP secrecy from our members of Parliament. To find your MP's contact information using your postal code, click here. Your letter would only need to say that you're fed up with the secrecy in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and worried about the bargains Trade Minister Ed Fast is making behind our backs.
In fact, I've set it up so you can write Trade Minister Ed Fast directly by clicking on this email address: email@example.com. Feel free to tailor the message and to CC your own MP's email address.
And let us know what you hear back from Minister Fast or your MP.