If a deal cannot be reached by all countries in the room, supported by their experts who have been immersed in the negotiations for the past three years, it should not happen at all, says Jane Kelsey.
“In an outrageous practice borrowed from the World Trade Organisation, known as “green room” negotiations, small groups of Ministers are meeting to broker compromise texts to put to the rest of the parties negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement,” Professor Jane Kelsey reported from Singapore, where the TPPA ministerial meeting began on 7 December 2013.
“This is a tried and true strategy that is designed to make it harder for countries left outside the negotiating group to sustain their opposition to new proposals.”
There has been no public announcement of what is happening, even to the journalists who were invited to register for the ministerial meeting and are swarming around the conference venue.
However, it is believed that the groups comprise around four ministers who can bring one senior official with them who can speak. The other countries can only send observers who can take notes, but not speak.
“We suspect that the US has played a major role in deciding who is in which group,” Kelsey said.
For example, it is rumoured that the core group on intellectual property includes only one of the ‘group of five’ who have been major critics of the US proposal and tabled their own alternative earlier this year. The five are New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada and Malaysia.
“Critics of the way these negotiations have been conducted to date should be outraged by yet another abuse of process, given the high stakes of the negotiations. This must further impugn the legitimacy of any deal,” Kelsey said.
“It is the kind of railroading we have just seen in Bali for the WTO ministerial that has brought the entire institution into disrepute.”
“The TPPA already faces a crisis of legitimacy because of its obsessive secrecy, and the profound opposition in almost every country to almost every proposal the US is pushing, from medicines and Internet freedom to investor rights to sue governments and forced restructuring of state enterprises.”
Kelsey urged people, especially politicians, in the twelve countries to tell their governments in no uncertain terms that this process is unacceptable. If a deal cannot be reached by all countries in the room, supported by their experts who have been immersed in the negotiations for the past three years, it should not happen at all.