ARC Future Fellow and Associate Professor in Intellectual Property, Australian National University
Dr Matthew Rimmer is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, working on Intellectual Property and Climate Change. He is an associate professor at the ANU College of Law, an associate director of the Australian Centre for Intellectual Property in Agriculture (ACIPA), and a director of the Australian Digital Alliance. Dr Matthew Rimmer receives funding as an Australian Research Council Future Fellow working on "Intellectual Property and Climate Change: Inventing Clean Technologies" and a chief investigator in an Australian Research Council Discovery Project, “Promoting Plant Innovation in Australia”.
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According to the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Ron Kirk, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is “an ambitious, next-generation, Asia-Pacific trade agreement that reflects U.S. priorities and values”.
The negotiating partners for the treaty include a selection of countries from the Pacific Rim: Australia, New Zealand, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Chile and Peru. There has been much discussion about whether Canada, Mexico, and Japan will join the agreement. And USTR Ron Kirk has observed that the treaty has open architecture to accommodate new members.
Although the draft text remains largely secret, the outline indicates that the agreement is wide-ranging, covering some 20 areas, including competition, customs, e-commerce, intellectual property, investment, industrial relations, and trade.
According to the USTR, the treaty is intended to be a “living agreement” that can be updated to “address trade issues that emerge in the future as well as new issues that arise with the expansion of the agreement to include new countries.”
The danger is it could instead be a mercurial treaty, which could be rapidly revised and updated by the parties.
Even within the United States, there are tensions between the Obama administration and the Congress over the Trans-Pacific Partnership - particularly in respect of the impact of the treaty upon open government, intellectual property, the digital economy, and public health. There has been a furore this week about the leak of the investment chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Undermining open government
There has been widespread concern about the lack of transparency, due process, public participation, and good governance surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the United States.
A Democrat senator, Ron Wyden, has introduced a bill calling for all members of Congress, together with staff who have proper security clearance, to be given access to “documents, including classified materials, relating to negotiations for a trade agreement to which the United States may be a party and policies advanced by the Trade Representative in such negotiations.”
His aim: “Put simply, this legislation would ensure that the representatives elected by the American people are afforded the same level of influence over our nation’s policies as the paid representatives of PhRMA, Halliburton and the Motion Picture Association.”
Meanwhile, a group of law professors have issued a statement to note concern and disappointment over the secrecy surrounding the IP chapter of the agreement. They’ve asked for increased participation for the sake for legitimacy and fairness, “if the goal is to create balanced law that stands the test of modern democratic theories and practices of public transparency, accountability and input.”
The USTR has dismissed such allegations regarding the lack of transparency and public participation. But civil society groups have pressed their point, interrupting the Dallas talks with political theatre. The Yes Men infiltrated the Dallas meeting, and awarded Ron Kirk with a “Corporate Power Tool” in a fake ceremony: