Transparency in TPP: An Overview and Future Agenda

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25 TPP rally photo by Public Citizen CC BY-NC-SAAs the 15th round of TPP negotiations is approaching in December at Auckland, New Zealand, we keep in view the sensitivity of the issues arising from the ongoing TPPA negotiating text. Specifically the issues highlighted through the two leaked chapters of TPP on Intellectual Property Rights and Investment. These leaked chapters has sparked an extensive debate regarding national and public interests in Intellectual Property Rights and investment policy.

To date the awareness campaigns and protest against the TPPA regulations have been strongest in New Zealand because of the potential threat to change the IP laws of New Zealand, not yet a US FTA signatory, to accommodate the TPPA rulings. The criticism of TPPA text by various folks of the world (dominated by New Zealand scholars and civil society representatives) has lead to increased level of awareness among general public and stakeholders.

The Australian refusal to abide the TPPA regulations regarding investor-State dispute alarmed the rest of the negotiating governments to protect their individual interests, and New Zealand's proposal on IPR is another of the examples of protecting national interests while negotiating this agreement. Surprisingly, most of the other member states have no objection or no voice has been raised by the public and civil-society- organizations of these countries.

Multiple news and commentaries on TPP clearly show the interest of private sector and MNCs in TPPA, while on the other hand consumer groups and civil society organizations of member states are kept blind about these negotiations. This situation demands an increased level of attention, effort and collaboration between the consumer groups and civil-society organizations to build an integrated strategy to protect the consumer interests and rights.

To meet this objective of integrated strategy and action plan there is need for evaluation of existing efforts targeted to bring the transparency in TPPA. Few of the organizations deserve appreciation for their campaigns to bring transparency in TPPA, these include Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Knowledge Ecology International, TPP Watch, Green Movement, Avaaz, Public Knowledge, InternetNZ, OpenMedia.ca, ONG Derechos Digitales, Innovate Chile, and the only concerned voice from consumer rights is Consumers International.

Also few of the individual scholars need to be appreciated for their continuous intellectual support towards bringing, transparency , fairness and protection of human rights in TPPA. These include Jane Kelsey, Maria Sutton, Gareth Hughes, James Murrey, Carolina Rossini, Porteus Viana and Nob Akimoto. With all the efforts of these individuals and organizations mentioned above there is an increased level of pressure on USTR and negotiating governments to release the negotiating text for the public.

Responding to these initial efforts other human rights organizations are also becoming sensitive regarding transparency in TPP. More recently executive director of the Amnesty International US has strongly condemned the secrecy in TPPA and urged the governments involved in negotiations to provide the legal text available to public to ensure the basic human rights. Hopefully the Mexico and Canada will be joining TPPA in December round of negotiations increasing the number of engaged stakeholders across the globe.

This scenario demands the cohesive and integrated effort by civil society to build more pressure on negotiators for transparency and ensuring protection of consumer rights. The future step for all the stakeholders could be to join hands with existing organizations working for the purpose:

  • To build more awareness among general public and stakeholders at national level so that pressure can be built on individual negotiators for bringing transparency.

  • To liaise between the efforts and increase the contact frequency with negotiating teams of all the member states.

  • To do more research on the available text to highlight its sensitivity and consequences for consumers and human rights.

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