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TPPA: New Huffington Post leaks expose major divisions

9 December 2013

New Huffington Post leaks expose major divisions, US heavying to get TPPA deal

Two internal documents from a country inside the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations have been leaked to Huffington Post and published this morning under the headline ‘Obama Faces Backlash Over New Corporate Political Powers In Secret Trade Deal’.

The leak comes during the third day of the TPPA ministerial meeting in Singapore, where the 12 countries said they wanted to close the deal.

Both documents – a chart outlining the positions of each of the twelve countries on most of the major issues being discussed in Singapore, and a brutally frank account of the substantive developments around the Salt Lake City round late last month – expose deep political and substantive tensions inside the talks.

A scan of the chart of country positions shows the US out on a limb on many crucial issues, from rules on medicines, protection for of to cut hot money flows to prevent or address a financial crises and a raft of new rights for foreign investors.

‘These polarised positions make US strong-armed tactics even more worrying’, said Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey who is monitoring the negotiations in Singapore.

‘Stories of bullying that I reported from Salt Lake City are born out by this insider account. The country’s predicted that US pressure would “increase with every passing day”.’

‘Mediocre’ progress in Salt Lake City was blamed on the lack of any ‘perceivable substantive movement’ by the US, which created an ‘uncertain scenario’ for Singapore. ‘even leaving aside the more complex issues (IP, SOEs and Environment), demonstrates a situation that makes it very difficult to think of a complete closure in December’.

The US was holding back on making offers on market access for agriculture until the Singapore ministerial, despite a series of ‘milestones’ for tabling offers that were to be reached before Singapore. New Zealand, along with Canada, Chile, Australia and Peru were reported to be frustrated with the US approach and a continued lack of transparency

The US had also been dominating the agendas of the chiefs and the sector groups, determining what versions of documents are discussed and marginalising dissenters. For example, it had produced a ‘non-paper’ on intellectual property in Salt Lake City, which it insisted form the basis for discussions on controversial medicines issues.

The chart and narrative documents lay out the positions of each of the twelve countries on almost all the outstanding issues up for decision in Singapore, including New Zealand’s.

‘Read alongside the intellectual property text that Wikileaks posted last month, these leaked documents give us a much clearer sense of what our government is doing inside the talks, even though it refuses to tell us’, Kelsey said.

‘Knowing the government’s position, and how it lines up with other countries, allows us to hold the government to account now, and if they sell out further in a final deal.’

There are some worrying positions. For example, New Zealand is not supporting other countries that want a general exception that deals with public health, environment, public morals to apply to the entire investment chapter, including the powerful rights that investors rely on to sue the government. The exception itself is weak, but governments are further disarmed in the face of foreign investors without it.

More analysis will follow once there is time to digest the documents.

ENDS

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