The Interpreter has previously drawn attention to the complex issues (some would say the downside concerns) of the Trans Pacific Partnership. The negotiations can be seen as America’s attempt to establish the trade segment of Tom Friedman’s 'Golden Straitjacket' — the rules which will govern international economic relations.
These negotiations are different from the usual trade bargains, where the starting point is a strong presumption that reducing trade barriers is a good thing, a win-win.
The TPP negotiations, however, are more a zero-sum arm-wrestle about what price we pay for things like intellectual property. Of course the owners of intellectual property deserve a reward and, more importantly, there needs to be an incentive for producing new intellectual property. But how much should we pay, for how long and in what form? Intellectual property rights create monopolies, and monopolies are never a good idea.
There is a real risk that the biggest players in the negotiations will get their way, and Australia, as a medium-sized player, will lose out. We, the public, don’t know how this is panning out because the negotiations are confidential. The consultations that do take place are with industry, which has vested interests and may not represent our wider interests. These leaks open this issue up, and for this we should be grateful.
Photo by Flickr user Olivia Hotshot.