29 Jul 2015

TPP secrecy causing concern

8:46 am on 29 July 2015

A former United States ambassador says the secrecy of the TPP talks has been concerning.

An anti-TPP protest in  Washington DC, earlier this year.

An anti-TPP protest in Washington DC, earlier this year. Photo: AFP

Trade officials and ministers from the 12 countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks meet at a resort in Maui today to begin what is being billed as the last push to wrap up the trade negotiations.

Supporters of the deal say it offers huge economic potential to member countries but critics say it is heavily weighted in favour of big American corporations and will undermine national sovereignty.

Curtis Chin, who represented the US at the Asia Development Bank from 2007 to 2010, told CNBC he hoped they would finalise the deal, but said the process had been problematic.

"We don't see what they're negotiating, and one of the big concerns is what is going on in Hawaii.

"What is it that they're negotiating regarding supports for agriculture or intellectual property rights?

"But indeed, once it's done people do have the chance to see what's done and what is written."

Maori political rights campaigner Angeline Greensill said there was also major concern among Maori that the negotiations were being done in secret, in breach of the Treaty of Waitangi.

She said Maori felt the TPP allowed too much interference in what happened in individual countries.

However, Director of the Australia-Japan Research Centre at the Australian National University, Shiro Armstrong, said the TPP was not yet a done deal.

"A lot of these countries come to these negotiations with sensitive sectors in agriculture that they want to protect and exclude from negotiations."

Canada 'jitters'

Canada is reportedly getting jittery over trade talks that could open up its agriculture industry to major competition from New Zealand and other leading producers.

The big prize eyed by the New Zealand Government has been the chance to gain better access to lucrative dairy and meat markets in Canada, the United States and Japan.

Hawaii Public Radio's news director Bill Dorman told Morning Report Canada may pull out of the talks, because the negotiations may be too sensitive to hammer out during an election year.

US Trade Representative Mike Froman (C) speaks at a press conference for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in Sydney last year.

US Trade Representative Mike Froman (C) speaks at a press conference for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in Sydney last year. Photo: AFP / FILE

"If there are points to be made at the highest level, before you get to the leadership itself, at the point of trade ministers, this is where you're going to see if there is any backing down.

"Clearly Canada is taking this very seriously."

Australian National University's Shiro Armstrong said that if Canada was excluded from the deal, there was a risk that New Zealand would be left out too.

Meanwhile, a media report from Toronto said Canadian farmers worried the TPP will gut their dairy industry had rushed five representatives to the sidelines of the Hawaii talks.

However, the communications and government relations director of Dairy Farmers of Canada, Isabelle Bouchard, said no one had rushed to Hawaii.

She said just like dairy representatives from New Zealand who are there, Canadian farmers were working with their government to get the best deal for Canada.

Warning against drug price increase

Prime Minister John Key conceded yesterday a trade off is likely to be higher drug prices for Pharmac.

Caucus run 21/07/15

John Key Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

But, Washington lobby group, Public Citizen, said billions of dollars and many lives would be at stake if people had to wait longer to get cheaper unbranded medicines under the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.

Director of Public Citizen's Global Access to Medicines Program Peter Maybarduk said drug companies wanted to hold rights to their medicines for three years longer than New Zealand's current five-year arrangement, meaning the prices will stay higher for longer.

Mr Maybarduk told Morning Report a bloc of countries wants to stand firm at five years and New Zealand should join it.

Protesters are reportedly starting to gather near the venue of the trade talks.

But intense security and the location of resort would make it difficult for them to get anywhere near the negotiators.