TPP 11 trade pact talks commence in Japan

Sans the US, the 11 remaining nations in the Trans Pacific Partnership are continuing talks ahead of signing an expected agreement in March despite objections from Canada on intellectual property rules.

While talks between the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP 11) members have commenced in Tokyo this week, the Canadian government is holding out on protecting the copyright of its intellectual property including movies, TV, and music.

Japan's senior TPP official Kazuhisa Shibuya told media "there are still gaps" after the first day of meetings between what Canada wants and what the other members are arguing for, according to Kyodo news agency.

Like Canada, Vietnam is also resisting the current pact due to rules concerning the rights of its workforce.

Canada is also holding out on automotive manufacturing rules, according to a spokesperson for Canadian Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

"Like Vietnam, one of the crucial elements we secured was what is known as a work plan, a mechanism to deal with outstanding issues, which for Canada includes ensuring the deal provides better access and terms for autos and does not affect our unique cultural sensitivities," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Mirroring Canada's intellectual property concerns with TPP 11, an Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) committee had last year similarly pointed towards the TPP's "troubling" provisions that would have the effect of locking in Australia's intellectual property regime.

This also followed concerns from Australia's copyright industry, and "ambiguity" in the data protection provisions, as well as a lack of independent economic analysis, although Australia, Japan, and Mexico have continually pushed for the agreement to go through.

"Our strong preference is for all 11 countries to join the first wave, but our focus is on bringing a new TPP agreement into force as soon as possible with those who are ready to move," Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in Tokyo last week.

The TPP was signed in February 2016 by the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, and Chile; however, it was then dumped by President Donald Trump on his first week in office in favour of bilateral trade deals that promote Trump's "America first" protectionist policy, despite warnings that he risked "abdicating" trade leadership in the Asia-Pacific region to China.

The TPP signatory nations in May then agreed to examine moving forward with the trade deal without the US. TPP 11 reached a basic agreement in November ahead of member states hoping to complete the deal in March.

This followed Turnbull in February 2017 reiterating his commitment to salvaging parts of the TPP after preliminary talks with New Zealand, Mexico, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia.

While Turnbull had previously suggested that the TPP could be opened up to China, the Chinese government expressed unwillingness to join, instead favouring its own Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal, which is being negotiated between China, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand.

At least half of the nations involved in the TPP had said they would instead consider Chinese-led multilateral trade deals such as the RCEP.

The Australian government in July rejected calls by the Greens Party that it permanently end its involvement with the TPP, arguing that "Australia's participation in the TPP is in the national interest."

In response to criticisms about the secretive manner in which the TPP was negotiated, the DFAT committee had recommended that Australia undertake further negotiations with its major trading partners prior to taking any binding treaty action on the TPP and "expedite widely supported reforms to the treaty-making process" to be less secretive.

With AAP

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