Last week, Senator Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to the Obama Administration’s nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, Michael Froman, asking him to “immediately make fully public ” the negotiating text of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). If that is not possible, Sen. Warren asked Froman to make public a “scrubbed” version which would include the language under negotiation, while hiding which country or countries proposed which version of text. She emphasized the need for the public to see the text in order to weigh in on the debate over the agreement, which will affect the internet and access to medicines, saying “I believe in transparency and democracy, and I think the U.S. Trade Representative should too.”
Peruvian Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism José Silva Martinot – asked about intellectual property (IP) provisions proposed by the United States in the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations – said on television that Peru will not accept terms that exceed those in its existing bilateral trade agreement with the U.S. The minister said “We as Peru have been clear and we will not go one millimeter beyond what has already negotiated.”
Peruvian officials have indicated their reluctance to exceed US-Peru FTA provisions on IP in the past, but recently they have come under increasing pressure not to give in to U.S. demands.
Big Pharma shows its influence in the Senate Finance Committee
[Reposted with permission from Oxfam America (Link)] Teenagers are notorious for giving one-word responses when their parents inquire how school is going. Last week’s Senate Finance Committee’s hearing on Michael Froman’s nomination as US Trade Representative reminded me of this dynamic.
Because so much of the interrogation airtime was devoted to grandstanding, rather than actual questioning, Mr. Froman seemed to have little option other than to say “yes” and express his willingness to work with a Senator on an issue. Teenagers will say just enough to end their parents’ lecturing and get them off of their backs, eye rolls an added bonus. Well-intentioned parents, after all, were teenagers once too and want to impart their knowledge.
Empowered by investment provisions in free trade agreements, corporations have challenged national laws, policies, and practices that protect the environment and public health. Phillip Morris’ challenges to cigarette plain packaging rules in Uruguay and Australia are the latest examples of such corporate actions. The Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) also contains an investment chapter similar to the investment chapter in many FTAs. Would that chapter give corporations the same powers as other FTAs? Could it be used to challenge national measures designed to increase access to knowledge? Could it be used to challenge limits to copyright meant to protect consumers?
Last Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee held its confirmation hearing for the Obama Administration’s nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, Michael Froman. The hearing webpage has a webcast and prepared statements by Froman, as well as Chairman Baucus and Ranking Minority Leader Hatch. The opening statements were brief, so most of the hearing was Q&A. Themes that repeatedly came up were intellectual property protection in India and online, and Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Senators Wyden and Baucus also discussed the transparency of trade negotiations. Baucus closed the hearing with a discussion of the role of the limitations and benefits of conducting trade policy within the multilateral trading system.
Last week Jim McDermott wrote an op-ed in Roll Call on the TPP in which he warned that the U.S. proposal for intellectual property in the TPP could “cost millions of lives in developing countries.” McDermott wrote that the proposal extends patent monopolies on pharmaceuticals further than TRIPS: “It would extend patents beyond the current 20-year norm and block national regulators from using existing clinical trial data to approve the production of generic or “bio-similar” drugs. Alarmingly, the proposal also outlaws ‘pre-grant opposition’ that allows doctors and patients to provide information to their governments about patents they believe do not meet national rules, an important democratic safeguard. The proposal also requires the patenting of new versions of old medicines, even when the new versions offer no additional therapeutic benefits. It even requires patenting of surgical, therapeutic and diagnostic methods, which not only is unethical but also could increase medical liability and the cost of practice.”
Today the Obama Administration’s inter-agency Trade Policy Staff Committee held the first day of its two-day hearing on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Many of the witnesses who testified in the afternoon offered comments related to intellectual property and/or privacy on the internet – both subjects that are expected to be among the most highly controversial in the upcoming trade negotiations. Below is an account of the testimony related specifically to intellectual property, along with links to the full text of written materials they submitted to USTR (the full docket with 378 comments is available here).
The central point of this submission is that the TTIP negotiation should exclude intellectual property issues. It should exclude IP issues because the US trade policy lacks IP proposals that have the kind of broad-based support necessary to be adopted in a trade negotiation of this kind – i.e. one that is ultimately multilateral, requiring consent by a wide range of diverse countries. This is the prime lesson that should be drawn from the failure of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and the Free Trade Area of the Americas before it, as well as from the current deadlock in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation. It is the prime lesson of the mounting evidence that our bilateral commitments do not contain sufficient flexibility to accommodate current proposals to amend our own intellectual property laws. US trade policy on intellectual property needs to be rethought. In the mean time, there should be a moratorium on any new efforts to negotiate IP commitments in trade forums that are not fully open, transparent and accommodating of the full range of inputs necessary to produce good policy.
USTR has sent witnesses the schedule for its Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership hearing on May 29-30. There will be 61 witnesses over the two days. Each witness will have 5 minutes to give remakrks, and 5 minutes for Q&A.
Most of the civil society groups that work on intellectual property issues will testify on Wednesday afternoon. Most of the industry groups that frequently weigh in on IP matters are scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
Consumers International (CI) has commissioned the production of three papers, the first on the competition chapter by one of our members, and the other two by independent experts, respectively covering the investment chapter and how it affects A2K, and the free flow of information provision and its impacts on privacy. The papers are now available for your reading pleasure!
[La Quadrature du Net (CC-BY-SA)(Link)] In a plenary vote, the European Parliament just adopted a mandate to the European Commission explicitly allowing it to “include strong protection of intellectual property rights (IPR)” in the proposed EU-US trade agreement negotiations, the “Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement” (TAFTA), also know as “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” (TTIP).
For many non-U.S. parties and public interest advocates, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) intellectual property chapter is seen primarily as a threat. It is the latest step in a long running agenda to shift between policy making forums to achieve new global “maximalist” intellectual property policies that are not achievable in multilateral forums. This narrative is correct. And the real politics of the negotiation suggests that the most positive outcome for the IP chapter may be its (or the larger agreement’s) failure. But the agreement’s negotiations does offer opportunities to discuss what a positive IP chapter might look like. Here is one more idea in that larger dialogue – ban the use of Special 301 between its parties.