Member log in

New lobby group details TPP's impact on everyday life, business

A new lobby group has formed to focus attention on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement – and there were fighting words at its launch Wednesday night.

The "A Fair Deal" coalition wants the government to hang tough on its current position during ongoing negotiations over the free trade pact, which involve NZ, the US, Australia and other Pacific Rim countries.

That is, refusing to change our intellectual property laws to accommodate US demands.

InternetNZ policy lead Susan Chalmers used the launch to underline the group's mission statement, reiterated on its website:

A Fair Deal is one that opens up new trade opportunities without forcing us to make copyright law changes that would take a major toll on New Zealand.

What kind of toll?

One panelist, Trade Me head of operations Mike O'Donnell, feared the TPP would spell the end of parallel importing. 

Another, NZRise's Don Christie – best known as a one-time head of the NZ Open Source Society, and one of the directors of Catalyst IT – says software companies usually build on existing work, making patents inappropriate, expensive and impractical in the sector.

Wednesday night he gave the example of Orion Health, the Auckland based company that has made hay from money from US stimulus spending directed toward healthcare, and is now shooting to become NZ's first billion-dollar software exporter.

The TPP, as the US wants it implemented, would force New Zealand to recognise software patents, opening NZ companies to a series of lawsuits from so-called "patent trolls".

Mr Christie also saw a negative impact on NZ generic drug maker Douglas Pharmaceuticals, which employs more than 200 scientists.

US "big pharma" companies were pushing for drug patents to be extended in TPP signatory companies. That would mean Douglas could not start work on cheaper, generic versions of big-name drugs coming off-patent until after its rivals in non-TPP countries.

InternetNZ's Ms Chalmers worried a provision allowing copyright holders to prohibit temporary copies would play havoc with way the internet works (temporary or "cached" local copies of content are often used to speed access).

The Blind Foundation's Neil Jarvis said with little content available in braille, large text or audio, NZ's copyright law grants the disabled an exemption to copy works into an accessible format. It would lose this under the TPP, criminalising the foundation's members.

ABOVE (L-R). The panel at the "A Fair Deal" launch at Auckland's Sky City Convention Centre Wednesday night, following the first day of InternetNZ's Nethui: Russell Brown, Neil Jarvis (Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind executive director), Susan Chalmers (InternetNZ policy lead) .Don Christie (NZRise), Mike O'Donnell (Trade Me head of operations); click to zoom. Fair Deal backers include InternetNZ, Consumer, the Telecommunications Users' Association (Tuanz), Trade Me and the Institute of IT Professionals.

Everyday impact
District Court Judge David Harvey said New Zealanders had to realise the TPP would affect their everyday lives, too.

He gave the example of how, today, many DVD players let you play discs designating for other regions – a practice that is legal under the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act 2008 but which would be criminalised under the TPP.

(Some may find Judge Harvey's sustained attack on the US negotiating position intriguing in the light of the fact he is also a pivotal player in the Kim Dotcom extradition saga).

An Australian government representative gave another potential everyday example from the floor: low-cost, third-party inkjet printer refill cartridgess becoming illegal.

All af the above examples could occur if the US gets its desired section (or "chapter") on IP (intellectual property) included in the final version of the TPP.

Judge Harvey summed up, "We have met the enemy, and he is the US" - a play on a quote from his Nethui keynote speech earlier in the day on internet regulation vs self-regulation earlier in the day, during which Judge Harvey said, "The problem is not technology. The problem is behaviour. We have met the enemy and he is us." [UPDATE: Read more of Judge Harvey's comments in What Judge Harvey said]

The good news
The good news is that our government opposes the US-backed TPP chapter on IP, centre-right blogger, National Party pollster and former InternetNZ vice-president David Farrar told the gathering.

Trade Minister Tim Groser was fully aware of the importance of the chapter, Mr Farrar said.

The bad news
Mr Farrar added it is still unclear whether Mr Groser realises its importance to defend to the last – or whether he has realised the chapter's worth as a bargaining chip to trade for greater agricultural access to US markets.

Three alternatives
There were three possible outcomes, said Mr Farrar.

One would be final version of the TPP that guaranteed NZ access to US markets, and dropped the heavy-handed copyright chapter. That would be easy for the government to approve.

At the other end of the spectrum, it could provide NZ with little access to the US, and keep the copyright chapter. That would be easy to dismiss.

But the most likely outcome was better access to US markets, with some elements of the copyright chapter remaining.

It would be a grey area, with the government left to make a judgement call on whether to ratify the treaty.

Prime Minister John Key and Mr Groser would be among a small group of key players making the decision, Mr Farrar said. (He did not see Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully playing a central role, although MFAT has been involved in elements of the TPP negotiations).

Cabinet does appreciate the arguments around copyright issues, Mr Farrar said, and NZ negotiators had been "quite staunch" on the issue (there have been 12 rounds of TPP negotiations so far, although progress is hard to gauge with so much secrecy surrounding the treaty).

But it was still quite possible that IP concerns would be sidelined, in whole or part. The government has made it clear that  "any trade deal that includes the USA is absolutely top priority for us," he said

UPDATE: Opening the second day of InternetNZ's NetHui, on Thursday, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said his government was keenly aware of copyright issues surrounding the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, "as are other countries".

"We don't want to compromise too much," the minister said.

But he added the government was looking for "the best TPP result overall" as it sought access to "quality markets".

Speaking immediately after Mr Joyce, opposition leader David Shearer said it was difficult to critique the TPP, given the secrecy around the free trade deal's negotiations (and he is not alone in this criticism, in the US Congress is pushing for a peek at the agreement it will later be asked to ratify).

New Zealnd business groups should be consulted, he said.

More by this author

Comments and questions

Autonomy was paid for with blood in this country.

So much free market of us

A small special interest group of monopolists want the limitations and restrictions in the IP chapter of TPP forced on everyone else in the world. Most of the US is split between people who do not care and those who actively do not want it. Most of the world is made up of those who do not care not care (or do not know) and those who do not want it.

That the vanishingly small minority of people who want these measures have managed to get it on the table in the first place shows how deeply flawed the entire process is and additionally is a very frightening indicator of where democracy is at in the US.

Those small groups who want the IP chapter donate to Obama re-election

Some how, the name Murdoch comes to my mind.

I hope NZ's TPP negotiators are smart enough to deal with this issue by ensuring there are a number of "thresholds" that need to be met before certain provisions become active or enforceable.

For instance, the USA might say: "Our analysis shows if we remove all tarriffs for NZ goods, then NZ stands to benefit by x$, including an increase of x% of dairy, meat and wool volumes." To which our response should be along the lines of, "We agree with the analysis and will accept the agreed IP provisions (plus perhaps others) once such benefits of x$ and x% increase in volumes have been achieved. Until then, the IP provisions are inactive and unenforceable. There could also be a number of weighpoints along the way, that gradually allow certain provisions to become enforceable.

The key issue in my view is that we are being asked to drop our pants in return for a range of potential, unrealised benefits, that in some case are unlikely to be achieved this century. We should base the degree to which we open ourselves up (if at all), on actual benefits and access achieved.

We can agree to the IP provisions in principle. But only in principle.

Isn't Harvey just trying to compensate for the DotCom decisions that went against him? in PR

Will clarify my tweet slightly: Deal with best IP chapter > Deal with OK IP chapter > No deal > Deal with the chapter as is. Farrar's right that there can be a deal with a decent IP chapter. I'm just not optimistic we get there. And, I worry a lot that whatever we think we've gained on dairy access gets taken away quickly - how long until the US puts up tariffs claiming that our failure to hit Fonterra under competition law constitutes an unfair trade practice?

The IP chapter is never going to be acceptable so long as the people pushing for unreasonable nonsense are at the bargaining table while just about everyone else (including our elected representatives) are kept in the dark about negotiations.

These people are pushing their nonsense in treaties all around the world and they are ruining things for reasonable stake holders. What about all the interests involved in physical conterfeit goods who spent years in the ACTA process only to have it slammed down by the European Union because the of this fringe interest group almost entirely comprised of the MPIAA and the RIAA.

Take that lot entirely out of the process and we might get a sane and reasonable agreement that everyone can benefit from, but while they have a front seat and driving force at the negotiation table, I doubt a reasonable IP chapter can make it to draft.

I am totally in support of Don Christie on software patents. They are nothing but a total blight on innovation and new start-ups. They serve only the interests of patent lawyers, large monopolists and patent trolls who no doubt generously fund compliant politicians.

I am totally in support of Alan Wilkinson's support for Don Christie on software patents. Look at the mess in the US with IP troll exploiters circling around start ups just waiting for them to get venture capital or a revenue stream so they can sue.

So just as ACTA has been rejected as US silliness in Europe we have to worry about our own politicians perhaps lacking the same smarts to deal with this peculiarly American issue.

It will be a devastating outcome if our politicians are too thick to get this right.

No need to worry; NZ has the best politicians money can buy '~'

Wow, based on the "dislikes" above, I wonder who's so down on NZ looking after its current and future interests. Clearly not someone who holds NZ's best interests at heart.

I think it's abhorrent that we have agreed to take part in this negotiation with the US (who, if I'm not mistaken, are the party who made secrecy a condition of taking part). I also fully support Don Christie's software patents stance (as some readers of this site will already know). I expect to be "disliked" to a similar degree to all the other sensible posts above.

Concern about Tim Groser getting a bad deal for NZ is very well founded. Unfortunately Groser sees the TPP itelf as the prize, not more and better paid jobs and services in NZ. Tim Groser is a Trade wonk first and last. He is not an elected politician: he trailed David Cunliffe by 6,000 votes when he ran against him in New Lynn. He does not relate to the issues and people that will be impacted by a bad deal. Come back, Jim Sutton!

Unfortunately, Groser has demonstrated that he has fallen hook, line, and sinker for the big US IP line:

"So I make no apology for belonging to a Government that believes in intellectual property rights, as part of a commitment to innovation, and is committed to keeping the rules current and to enforcing them. We have seen estimates that pirate DVDs cost our brilliant NZ film industry as much as $100 million a year."

He has shown no understanding of the cost of bogus patents, particularly with respect to software, or of the need for citizens' interests to be protected in the copyright debate.

Judge Harvey summed up, "We have met the enemy, and he is the US" - ive just listened to the audio and that's NOT what he says - he starts by saying if I may use Russell's Tweet from earlier, we have seen the enemy and he is U.S." So, did Judge Harvey say it or did Russell Brown?

I was in the room and you have willfully misreported the quote as you have added a word "the".

I enclose the authoritative root, now go and fall on your pen:

The Source: The Best of Pogo, Edited by Mrs. Walt Kelly and Bill Crouch Jr. A Fireside Book, published by Simon & Schuster, Copyright 1982 by Walt Kelly Estate

The Chapter: ZEROING IN ON THOSE POLLUTERS: WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US, By Walt Kelly, Page 224. Beginning with the sixth paragraph:

“In the time of Joseph McCarthyism, celebrated in the Pogo strip by a character named Simple J. Malarkey, I attempted to explain each individual is wholly involved in the democratic process, work at it or no. The results of the process fall on the head of the public and he who is recalcitrant or procrastinates in raising his voice can blame no one but himself. An introduction to Pogo Papers, published by Simon and Schuster in 1952-53, said in part:

‘...Specializations and markings of individuals everywhere abound in such profusion that major idiosyncrasies can be properly ascribed to the mass. Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly. It is just unfortunate that in the clumsy hands of the cartoonist all traits become ridiculous, leading to a certain amount of self conscious expostulation and the desire to join battle.’

‘There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve, then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tiny blasts of tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.’

As years passed, the final paragraph was reduced to “We have met the enemy and he is us,” in a few strips having to do with pollution. The nine words form the title and theme of a Pogo motion picture currently in work, believing as I do that we are all of us responsible for our myriad pollutions, public, private and political.”

Walt Kelly's brilliant Pogo cartoons set in the Okefenokee Swamp are indeed the proximate source of "we have met the enemy and he is us"; but the special delight of the phrase comes from the way it plays against the original quote from Commodore Oliver Perry, who captured a British squadron at the battle of Lake Erie and reported that "we have met the enemy and he is ours." A piece of early US triumphalist bluster tidily deflated by Kelly, albeit after a 140 year interval.

He did not say "the enemy ... is the US" , he said "the enemy ... is U S"; listen to
(his quote start 0m29s into that recording)

This is a clear parody on the well known quote "we have met the enemy and he is us"

It's not Free and it's not about Trade. Ask yourself why the entirety of the TPP agreement is confidential. Do you think this is because it will benefit ANY country that signs it? Wake up.