IT Groups Raise Fears over IP "Cartel" Proposals in Trans-Pacific Trade Talks

New Zealand Internet and technology lobby groups are planning to attend the 11th round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP) talks in Australia to voice concerns that U.S.-backed intellectual property laws could be imposed on TPP partner states.

Governments of the nine nations negotiating the TPP agreement say the TPP will open up trade across the region, but critics say it threatens national sovereignty and legislation with its cross- border regulation.

Internet campaign group Internet New Zealand (InternetNZ) and tech sector lobby group NZRise said Monday they would appeal to negotiators in Melbourne for "a fair and balanced intellectual property chapter."

"InternetNZ and NZRise are seriously concerned that the TPP amounts to a beyond-the-border deal, reaching into New Zealand's domestic intellectual property (IP) legislation," said a statement from InternetNZ.

"Strict IP laws being pushed for by the United States in the TPP's IP chapter would require changes to New Zealand law that will significantly affect the Internet and New Zealand-owned and operated ICT businesses negatively."

The two groups had joined with the Australian Digital Alliance and other associations to organize an NZRise-hosted event on the margins of the negotiations, similar to an NZRise event at last year's negotiation round in Vietnam.

"While NZRise functions as a voice for New Zealand's indigenous tech sector, we don't have the money, power or access to the process that U.S. based cartels and monopolists do," said Daniel Spector, who is leading the NZRise effort.

"This luncheon is our best shot to get a different voice into the ears and minds of the trade negotiators from the participating nations," he said in the statement.

InternetNZ policy leader Susan Chalmers would speak at the TPP stakeholder forum on the importance of preserving an open Internet, following up on her discussion at the Chicago round in September on digital copyright issues such as U.S.-proposed broad copyright protection for "temporary copies."

Such important discussions needed to be conducted in an open and transparent way, she said in the statement.

InternetNZ chief executive Vikram Kumar, who will also speak at the NZRise event, said he wanted the TPP negotiators to hear about the "crippling effects" of the U.S.-proposed IP chapter.

"We continue to strongly support the position taken by New Zealand negotiators on the IP chapter. However, the U.S. proposals could fundamentally undermine the economic and social opportunities the Internet provides to people, communities and businesses," he said in the statement.

"It is critical we raise awareness on these issues now as opposed to later when countries are making trade-offs and compromises on unresolved issues, like the IP chapter, to get the deal done," said Kumar.

The nine countries involved in the TPP negotiations are New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Chile, Peru, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the United States.

Critics across the region have claimed the agreement will allow powerful transnational corporations override national laws and buy up strategic national assets, and have accused the United States of seeking an agreement that will "contain China."

(Source: Xinhua)

2012-03-01