As negotiators are seeking to finish up the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement as soon as possible (they had originally promised a done deal by October), it appears that the controversial "intellectual property" chapter is causing the most problems
, according to Sean Flynn, who is at the current negotiating round in Lima.
Officially, the Chief Negotiators have backed off the prior commitment to end the TPP negotiation by October, but are still clinging to a goal to end the negotiation by the “end of the year.” But privately, none of the negotiators or stakeholders at this round would express any confidence that the intellectual property issues could be resolved by then. The issues still under contention are massive.
The intellectual property chapter has grown to over 80 pages of text – including all the bracketed suggestions and alternatives. Some negotiators describe it as the longest text currently under negotiation.
Many of the issues are completely blocked. There has not been any new negotiation text offered on the most controversial pharmaceutical provisions since the Melbourne round over a year ago. There is currently no mandate from many countries to negotiate (they only “consult” and “discuss”) the pharmaceutical reimbursement chapter. Barbara Weisel described the pharmaceutical issues as being in a “period of reflection,” and had no comment on when that period might end.
Furthermore, it appears that some of the negotiators are realizing that it's a bad idea to lock in certain concepts, as would be set under the TPP, especially as various court rulings are changing the way copyright laws are viewed, and while a new copyright reform process is ongoing. People seem to be recognizing that agreeing to specific norms that may quickly be undermined by national laws would be a waste of time.
The recent spate of proposals for policy changes for US copyright law have caused a stir. The US is being asked how it can hold on to demands for parallel importation restrictions after the Kirtsaeng ruling, 70 year copyright terms after the Copyright Office proposed shifting them back to 50 years with formalities required for extensions, and strict restrictions on anti-circumvention liability exceptions when the Obama Administration and the Library of Congress have endorsed reforms that would violate the US proposal. Barbara Weisel stated that USTR is “doing what we can to work with Congress” to make sure that the TPP will not restrict policy options. But negotiators have said that there has been no visible movement on the USTR’s positions on Copyright issues, which will be negotiated this week.
And, of course, once again, the USTR appears to have no plans to be transparent in the slightest.
And there is no plan to release any text to the public. This is stark contrast to the last to plurilateral agreements including countries in the region. The Free Trade Area for the Americas and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement both released full texts of the negotiating document with brackets indicating text under consideration before the finalization of the texts. For ACTA, there were four publicly released texts between April 2010 and May 2011. For the TPP – none yet, despite the Chief Negotiators’ pronouncement of end of year finalization plans.
Considering how much controversy there is over these items, it seems ridiculous that we still can't actually see what's being negotiated in our name -- especially when there's quite reasonable fears that it could mess with the democratic
process of potentially rewriting copyright law.