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InternetNZ warns against making easy trade-offs in the TPP

InternetNZ warns against making easy trade-offs in the TPP

10 November 2011

InternetNZ (Internet New Zealand Inc) has today issued a warning that, in the absence of independently verifiable and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis, there is a risk that the intellectual property rights chapter (IPR chapter) will become an easy trade-off for the Government when negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

InternetNZ has published a position paper on the TPP and written to Deputy Prime Minister Bill English detailing this view on the eve of his trip to the APEC summit in Honolulu, where the negotiating parties are expected to adopt the ‘broad outlines’ of the agreement.

The TPP will expand upon the Trans Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership, a regional trade agreement currently in force between New Zealand and three other countries. An additional five countries, including the United States, are negotiating to join.

Under the TPP, the big ticket item for New Zealand is greater access to US dairy markets, while the US wants more legal protection for its intellectual property (IP) exports. Ultimately, New Zealand may have to face the tough decision of accepting the latter to get the former. The problem is that doing so could significantly impact the Internet and New Zealand’s digital future negatively. This is compounded by the lack of independently verifiable and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of New Zealand adopting the draft US position in the IPR chapter, in particular the copyright provisions.

InternetNZ Chief Executive Vikram Kumar says, “Given the lack of transparency in the negotiations, inferences have to be drawn from leaked documents. This also constrains independent analysis and quantification while the negotiations are in progress.

“One of the leaked documents reveals that the US is pushing for extreme changes in our IP laws. For example, a provision in the draft IPR chapter would empower rights holders to ‘authorize or prohibit’ streaming, buffering and caching if any of those functions involve copyrighted works. If rights holders can authorise or prohibit caching of their material, that means that they can demand a license fee for caching and cripple the Internet for New Zealanders. This stands directly in opposition to the principle of an open Internet enabling our digital future.”

Vikram Kumar concluded, “InternetNZ is of the opinion that in order to understand what we are to gain by a trade, we must first grasp what exactly we are trading away. There is a real danger that the Government will see the IPR chapter as an easy trade-off for gains in other areas of the TPP. And, without any transparency of negotiating positions, Kiwis are being asked to put blind faith in the Government.”

InternetNZ’s position paper is available at here.


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