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No need to worry about TPP - Groser

Critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership don’t need to worry about intellectual property issues or paying more for drugs, says Trade Minister Tim Groser.

Speaking on TV3’s The Nation, Mr Groser said there was no need for concern about the content of the agreement currently being negotiated by 12 countries.

“When this deal is done, I am certain that I and the Prime Minister will be able to come in from of New Zealanders and say: ‘this is virtually all upside’.”

“In relative terms, New Zealand will gain more than any country in TPP ... the structure of these massive protective barriers that will come down will benefit New Zealand more than any country in this negotiation.”

But earlier on the TV3’s The Nation, Labour leader David Cunliffe said he was concerned about the TPP's impacts on Pharmac and intellectual property.

“We have to make sure that the impacts on Pharmac which saves New Zealanders $1.2 billion on taxpayers’ money a year are not excessive.

“If the intellectual property provisions were such that New Zealand companies, which are smaller on average than American ones, couldn’t get a patent, that wouldn’t work for us.”

But Mr Groser hit back, and said concerns about intellectual property and patents under the TPP had been “wildly exaggerated”.

He said the United States is the “most innovative country in the world” so their intellectual property law could hardly chill innovation.

New Zealanders would not be paying more for drugs as a result of TPP, Mr Groser said.

“I’ve said categorically Pharmac is not on the table.”

Comments and questions

Maybe I would believe Mr Groser and John Key if they put their personal assets on the line as some form of surety that we can believe them re their TPP guarantees.

I bet they won't do that - so why should we then believe them

Mr Groser, your assurances are worth very little unless we can *see the text of the agreement before NZ signs on*! Your assurance that the US' IP regime must be ok, as it's the "most innovative country in the world” is terrifying. You couldn't be more wrong. The US has lost its edge precisely *because* of its IP regime (particularly patents, but copyright is dire, too). If you don't understand that, then you need to hand over the negotiations to someone who does. I'm sick of this sycophantic "US knows best" approach to NZ foreign policy. It's just plain stupid.

For those of us who are not in the know, perhaps you could explain to us why "the US has lost its edge precisely *because* of its IP regime" ? What specific examples can you share with us of where the US has lost its edge?

Well, Anonymous, this article gives you a taste:

The US is a sinking ship with regard to innovation. Only the largest corporations with large patent portfolios can afford to play (and innovation isn't their strong suit). Many, if not most, tech startups are killed in the cradle if they appear to have any merit.

Almost all patent infringement cases are settled (the average cost of defending a software patent infringement claim is apparently US$3 million), and all of those settlements include an NDA, so the problem is definitely much worse than anyone knows for sure. Just another example of the undemocratic effects of secrecy... And if you want to learn more about the copyright issue, I recommend you check out this multi-partisan effort:

Business Method patents and granting of patents that lack "innovation" are a real risk - many examples are : take "do old process" - but now "do it with a computer" (= patentable).

Many patents are issued that are incredibly broad and lack any concrete implementation details.

The cost to fight these "patent trolls" - who will be based from an East Texas or similarly patent-holder-friendly region - will be simply impossible for small to medium businesses.

Look at the ridiculous lawsuits by Apple vs Samsung over the use of "rounded corners" - although this is a trade-dress suit amongst others.

To use one of John Key's favourite terms, Groser's assurances appear "either politically motivated or ill informed". Patent trolling is a blight on US innovation, and has been an emerging legal industry for perhaps the last decade. The grossest misuse of it? Large companies using their financial clout to prevent small companies competing, or to simply appropriate the information they want from them (tie them up in illegitimate cases they cannot afford to defend, in order to make them surrender their IP or go out of business).

Is the TPP going to split Asia into two competing camps?
Why is Indonesia and China not in the TPP?
Why are they trying to set up an alternative trade group called the RCEP?
Whats wrong with Sate owned enterprises? They seem to have worked very well in China.
Is the TPP trying to impose US financial concepts onto China and asean countries?
China is our largest trading partner and I think it would be very wise to be found in China's camp rather than the opposing camp.
It would be much better for us financially to be in found in China's good books rather than in their bad books.

While I am not aware of the text in the NZ-China FTA, most FTA's have a 'most favoured nation' clause. This means whatever other deal China negotiates with other countries, NZ is entitled to the same terms China offers regarding China trade. If we do indeed have that clause, then NZ is no worse if China negotiates other FTAs

Groser's comment that US intellectual property law could hardly chill innovation indicates he has been captured by IP maximalism and is no longer representing New Zealand's interests. Whether it is copyright lobbynomics, ever increasing copyright terms or counter-productive software patents there's practically nothing in US IP law that would benefit NZ (except perhaps for fair use for satire & parody).

The idea that the "text has to be secret" as Mr Groser asserts is total rubbish. The unfounded assertion that the text of trade negotiations must be confidential is quite simply and fundamentally false. More importantly, it's anti-democratic. We should pull out of the negotiations on principle. Let the other poor sods form a "high quality" (not "free" as the media often still mis-characterises itt) with the US. Look at the FTA between the Aussies and the US... ask the Aussies how well they've done out of it. Very poorly indeed. I think Mr Groser's breathless self-congratulation on NZ's performance in this negotiation needs some serious corroboration. Why is this national government so completely in the thrall of the US?! It's a massive crumbling empire that can't even keep its own lights on. (As a yank, I'm allowed to say that)

rubbish... since when did democracy mean normal everyday taxpayers could get their noses into how the government operates? Since when did we have the right to see which criminals in which cases the police are investigating? or to see which school is in the shortlist to shutting down?

All democracy means is that if you don't like what the Prime Minister is doing, then you can have your say by voting him out of office next election.

Rubbish indeed "someone". If we're negotiating our future legislative landscape, then we most certainly have the right, as citizens, to see the text of the agreement. We're not asking for the negotiators positions, or the bargaining chips they use. We're asking to know enough so that we *can* vote the current gov't out if we think they're leading us down the garden path. In the present situation, we won't know the outcome of these negotiations until well after the next election. As a side not,e, someone should grow a spine and put her/his name to his/her comments.

Groser did not answer the questions that counted. These negotiations do not need to be secret. None of what he says is reassuring.

It is simply impossible to trust that the politicians will keep their promises here because there is no transparency and no accountability.

Its about time NZ pulled out of the TPP talks and called it for the sham that it is.

If we have nothing to worry about surely they have nothing to worry about by showing us what is being agreed upon?