As trade ministers from countries negotiating the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement meet in Singapore this week to attempt to bed down some of the outstanding issues, a new leak suggests Australia and the other negotiating nations are still opposing a number of the more controversial parts of the Intellectual Property chapter put in by the United States.
The TPP agreement is a currently being negotiated between Australia, the US, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore, aimed at simplifying trade between the 12 nations.
The negotiations have been held confidential, and text of the agreement has not been made public, despite calls from the Australian opposition for the full text to be tabled in the parliament. A motion was passed in the Senate last week calling for the text to be tables in full but it has been reported today that the Coalition will defy this order, stating it will only be made public once Australia has signed onto the agreement.
Wikileaks has previously leaked a draft of the IP chapter from back in August, which critics have said would sign Australia up to significant new penalties for users caught sharing copyright-infringing material online, and potentially new obligations for ISPs to enforce copyright for the rights holders.
A leak provided to the Huffington Post and Wikileaks today reveals where each country currently stands in the negotiations over various parts of the agreement, showing a significant lack of support for many of the proposals by the US, particularly around copyright protection.
Negotiation positions for the IP chapter as of November 6 reveal Australia is rejecting a US term of copyright protection, parallel importation proposals, and criminal offenses for copyright infringement.
But Australia is rejecting a proposal backed by all other nations other than the US that would limit the liability of ISPs for the copyright infringement of their users on their networks.
Notes from the Salt Lake City meeting of negotiators also reveal that "large differences" continue to exist in the IP chapter, and put serious doubts over the agreement being finalised in Singapore. The US has indicated it will attempt to force its position to get the chapter concluded, but the text indicates that the US has already decided that the IP chapter will not be concluded in Singapore.
In the e-commerce chapter, Australia is reserving its position on non-discrimination for digital products, application dispute settlement, and software secure code requirements. Australia is supporting privacy obligations and a local server test requirement which had previously been flagged to address concerns about data sovereignty and the security of government data being hosted in other countries.
It has been suggested that in the push to get the agreement signed by the end of the year, Australia will ultimately agree to a number of provisions in the treaty it is currently opposed to, in order to get access to the other markets for Australian industries such as agriculture. DFAT officials have said Australia's decision on whether or not to sign the agreement will be made on the "overall balance of the package".
Once the TPP agreement has been signed, it will need to be tabled in parliament and passed by parliament in order to be ratified. It will be difficult to have amendments made to the agreement after it has been signed if the parliament rejects the agreement.