On Wednesday, 27 August, the 19th round of TPP negotiations held its “stakeholder engagement” day.
Chief’s briefing changed to “dialogue”
Usually, these days involve presentations by stakeholders to negotiators followed shortly by an hour long briefing by chief negotiators. While there have been variations on the type presentations stakeholders are allowed to give (including experimentation with hosting tables instead of presentations, or allowing simultaneously tables with presentations), at every full TPP negotiating round that I have been to over the last two-and-a-half years has included a one hour briefing by the chief negotiators to the stakeholders. During briefings, we get a report back from the chief negotiator (typically the chief of the host country) on which chapters have been discussed, where progress has been made, and other information. After this report back, stakeholders are then afforded a question and answer session, able to ask any question they wish to any country, and often these questions are directed toward more than one negotiator. While these briefings often reveal little to no information — chief negotiators are practiced at responding with non-answers — they are still an important way in which stakeholders can raise concerns before the entire panel of chief negotiators. Additionally, while the chief negotiators often do not reveal much about the negotiations substantively, they usually clarify many of the procedural issues, such as information about next rounds and the process going forward.
This round, there was no briefing from the chief negotiators. I find this quite appalling, particularly in light of the rumors that this will be the last official round of negotiations and all work moving forward will simply be meetings of individual chapters and that we may not see chief negotiators at intersessionals (assuming, of course, we are even made aware of these intersessionals; meetings of other chapters that took place over the course of the last month have been secretive and civil society could not locate the venue of, for example, investment intersessionals).
Instead of the usual briefing, the chiefs hosted a “dialogue.” What was this dialogue? Nothing more than what we normally get in the receptions that are often held (though no such reception was held this round). It was a large room with coffee and snacks being served and the only way to talk to the chiefs was to go up to them and ask them questions. With numerous stakeholders all competing for time from twelve chiefs over the course of an hour does not make for great dialogue. Having been to many past rounds, I can identify the majority of chiefs and have met many of them at previous rounds. However, how are new stakeholders supposed to identify who in the room of probably a hundred people — mixed between negotiators and stakeholders — are the chiefs? In my opinion, it’s not a great process and even if you know who all the chiefs are, if you want to know the position of a country on a particular issue, you have to hunt down every chief individually and repeat your concerns and follow it up with your question.
As I noted last week, the stakeholder presentations were shortened this round to 7 minutes. At most rounds I have been to previously, 15 minutes were allotted to each presenter. In 7 minutes it is difficult to say anything of substance or present much analysis.
For the intellectual property room, there were thirteen presenters and the schedule follows below:
- Hisham bin Hussein, Malaysian AIDS Council & Malaysian AIDS Foundation
- Ira Wolf, PhRMA
- Jody Cox, Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association
- Krista Cox, Knowledge Ecology International
- Rayar Sowrimuthu, Malaysian Organization of Pharmaceutical Industries
- Terry Creighton, Teva Canada
- Patricia Hepworth, Australian Digital Alliance
- Paul Neureiter, Amgen
- Burcu Kilic, Public Citizen
- M. Fabiana Jorge, Generic Pharmaceutical Association
- Hayden Green, Consumer NZ
- Leena Menghaney, Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)
- John E. Mattheson, Intel Technology Asia
The second room included investment, “general” (which included consumer and tobacco issues) and market access, with eleven total presenters:
- Patricia Ranald, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network
- Eugenio Salina Moralesm, CONCAMIN
- Yasuaki Yamaura, Consumers Union of Japan
- Martin J. Frid and Yoshiko Matsuda, Facebook Group: “What is TPP?”
- Masahiko Yamada, Citizen’s Congress Opposing TPP
- Molly Cheah, Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control
- Susan M. Liss, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
- Russel Honma, APEC Hawaii
- Duncan Fraser, National FArmers Federation
- Masaaki Lida, JApan SUgar Refiners’ ASsociation
- Tsuyoshi Hishinuma, Japan Livestock Industry Network
Impressions on intellectual property
There is a lot of speculation regarding what will happen going forward and whether the intellectual property chapter can finish by the end of the year. There is a lot of pressure on the negotiators to get as much done as possible before the leaders’ meeting in October and to conclude by the year’s end. All IP negotiators indicate that this will be a difficult task, but some negotiators are more optimistic about the ability to conclude their negotiations this year than others.
It appears that the United States’ infamous “period of reflection” regarding its pharmaceutical proposals — a period that has lasted for the past year and a half — has finally concluded. As to what the result of this reflection period is remains to be seen and as of this writing, the United States has yet to table a new proposal or announce that it will not revise the proposal it tabled in the 8th round of negotiations which took place in Chicago, IL in September 2011. Also unclear is whether the United States will table its proposal on biologics during this round and if it does, whether it will table a 12-year exclusivity period as it is widely rumored they will.
The trade ministers gave instructions to the negotiators after the ministerial meeting concluded. My understanding is that these were joint instructions to all countries and that for certain chapters, such as intellectual property, more specific points were made. These instructions have not yet been made public.
There are also wide expectations that there will be an IP intersessional toward the end of September, but there is no confirmed venue or dates at the moment.