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The next round of secret talks to negotiate details of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement will be held soon in Peru.

The agreement has been negotiated in secret since March 2010 by the US and eight other countries; Washington is attempting to force the others to accept it.

The TPPA has one aim, to ensure that big American multinationals are able to make more money out of the eight countries - Peru, Malaysia, Australia, Chile, Vietnam, New Zealand, Brunei, and Singapore - which are part of the negotiations.

Despite the secrecy, there are some intrepid souls who are mounting opposition. One of those in the forefront of creating awareness about the perfidious nature of the agreement is Jane Kelsey (pictured below), a professor of law at the University of Auckland and a long-term academic activist in the area of free trade and investment agreements.

A website called TPP Watch is trying to create awareness about the deal and Professor Kelsey often issues media releases which are posted on the site.

Given that a major part of the agreement is built around IP and copyright, the outcome is of great interest to those in the field of technology. The draft text of the IP part of the deal was leaked on the web in February and a group in New Zealand, NZRise, has been formed to focus on the deal's downside for the IT industry.

Professor Jane Kelsey

Professor Kelsey says that the TPPA is the latest and potentially most invasive of these agreements in terms of domestic policy options. "It has particular interest in New Zealand because it would effectively be a FTA with the US," she told iTWire during an email interview.

iTWire: Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation, is quoted as saying that government is, these days, of the people, by the flunkeys and for the corporations. The talks for the TPPA appear to bear this out. Would you agree?

Jane Kelsey: There is no doubt that the major corporations are driving the TPPA agenda and seeking binding rules that guarantee them influence within domestic decision-making processes and enforcement powers outside national courts if governments act against their interests.

iTWire: Simply put, what is the TPPA? How does it differ from an ordinary trade deal? And are countries involved by choice or are they being pushed into it?

JK: The proposed TPPA is far-reaching on several levels. It is important to understand that it is not about "trade" as traditionally understood. Its advocates call it an agreement for the 21st century. That does not mean addressing the challenges of the 21st century - climate change, financial instability, resource scarcity, job insecurity, inequalities - but removal of constraints on economic integration and seamless commercial transactions.

They also say it aims to go further behind the border than any previous agreement, which means imposing "disciplines" on the processes through which governments make decisions and giving preference to pro-market principles when they do regulate.

A third important objective is to create a "gold standard" agreement, mainly among countries that are already highly liberalised, as a platform for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific. That goal is not just economic - it is seen as a way of counter-balancing China's influence in the region and ensuring the US has influence. Other APEC countries will come under pressure to join the TPPA if the negotiations conclude. That may not happen - there has been resistance in the past to such an agreement because the Anglo-American model that the TPPA would follow is not favoured by many Asian countries, especially when the US and its corporations are at the core.



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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.