TPP: Consumer movement's trade deal reaction

15 Nov 2013

CI Members and activists have expressed grave concerns over documents detailing the negotiating positions of the countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

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The secretive trade deal has long been of concern as a consumer protection issue, with campaigners claiming that it could weaken food safety regulation, reduce fair use of copyright materials, and allow big business to sue governments.

Writing on the website of CI member CHOICE, Dr Matthew Rimmer, Associate Professor at the ANU College of Law said: “Australian consumers have been betrayed. The intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a monster. The proposals in respect of copyright law, trademark law, patent law, and data protection would hit Australian consumers hard.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership undermines Australian efforts to take substantive policy action in respect of IT pricing. The agreement does nothing to further efforts to reform copyright exceptions in Australia. The agreement threatens consumer rights, privacy, and internet freedom.”

CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland said: “CHOICE is deeply concerned at a proposal from the United States to expand criminal liability for copyright infringement. This would mean that domestic non-commercial infringement could become a criminal act.

“While CHOICE condemns copyright infringement, we certainly don’t agree that an individual downloading Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones for personal use should be open to criminal prosecution.”

Meanwhile Hadyn Green, writing on the Consumer NZ website, said: “Looking through document it’s hard to see why New Zealand would sign this right now; or why any country would, including the US.

“One thing is clear though, the US and Japan are both taking a hard-line, anti-consumer stance on intellectual property – especially in the area of pharmaceuticals.”

North American Members of the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue, which is co-ordinated by Consumers International, have also criticised the TPP.

The group recently met to discuss a similar trade deal among Atlantic countries and are fighting to protect consumer rights in both hemispheres. 

 “The Obama administration’s proposals are the worst - the most damaging for health - we have seen in a US trade agreement to date,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s global access to medicines program.  

He added: “The Obama administration’s shameful bullying on behalf of the giant drug companies would lead to preventable suffering and death in Asia - Pacific countries. “

Knowledge Ecology International’s James Love said that “there is still plenty of opportunity for countries to take positions that will promote the public interest and preserve consumer rights”.

He added:  “These areas include substantive sections of the most controversial provisions on patents, medicines, copyright and digital rights where there are often competing proposals.”

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