Countries fail to reach a compromise in TPP talks
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Countries fail to reach a compromise in TPP talks

After four days of negotiations, international delegates from 12 countries have failed to reach a compromise over the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative issued a statement yesterday claiming that "substantial progress" has been made in the TPP talks, which are now expected to continue into next year.

The news follows Monday's release by whistleblowing site WikiLeaks of two documents that suggest the US is isolated in its positions on many issues including intellectual property, and is exerting "great pressure" on other countries to comply with its demands.

One of the documents, an internal memo, records "large differences that continue in most areas of the chapter" on intellectual property. It recounts the meeting chair recording solutions "coming from the US position", prompting other countries to demand corrections to the text, which could later be used by the US as a basis for reaching an agreement.

The memo also describes the US proposals on Investor State Dispute Settlement, which allow companies to directly sue governments at a secret international arbitration tribunal, as one of "one of the most significant barriers to closing the chapter" on investment.

The other document, a spreadsheet outlining the positions of the countries on the various issues, shows the US as the sole supporter of proposals such as linkage requirements for pharmaceuticals, the criminalisation of copyright infringement and rules against parallel importation, which was judged to be legal by its own Supreme Court in Kirtsaeng v John Wiley.

The countries involved in the TPP negotiations are Australia, New Zealand, the US, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Japan and Vietnam.

Yesterday, six members of US Congress wrote to President Barack Obama arguing that the "secret" negotiations benefit pharmaceutical companies at the expense of public health. The writers, all Democrats, urged the president not to make any final trade agreements "that affect critical health issues" until politicians and members of the public have had the opportunity to review and comment on the proposals.

Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prize-winning economist from the Columbia University School of Business, has also written to the negotiators, arguing that several of the proposals would weaken the 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.

Separately, 27 organisations and over 70 individuals have signed on to a letter by Knowledge Ecology International protesting the proposal to extend copyright protection to life plus 70 years. The letter argues the extension will result in the loss of countless owned but uncommercialised works and will be "costly to consumers and performers, while benefiting persons and corporate owners that had nothing to do with the creation of the work."

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