On October 5, 2015, the twelve trade ministers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement announced that an agreement had been reached after five years of negotiations. The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is a large, comprehensive regional trade agreement in Asia and the Pacific between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States.
The press conference announcing a deal had originally been scheduled for Saturday, October 3, before being delayed several times through Sunday reportedly over obstacles concerning agreements on provisions regarding dairy and protections for “biologic” pharmaceutical products.
The New York Times reported that the text of the final agreement will not be made available for another month. No official release of any of the text of the TPP has been released to date, though there have been several leaks of various chapters including the Intellectual Property Chapter. It is disappointing that the lack of transparency continued throughout the negotiations, depriving the public of meaningful opportunity to discuss and debate the TPP on the merits of the texts.
While, based on the various leaks of texts, the copyright provisions and general intellectual property provisions have seen improvements since the United States’ initial proposal was leaked in 2011, there are still several areas of concern including around copyright term (no details regarding the agreed to term have been released as of yet, but the most recent leak revealed discussions over copyright terms of life plus 50, 70 or 100 years) and technological protection measures. Additionally, while the agreement contains positive language regarding limitations and exceptions, this language appears to be permissive rather than mandatory, in contrast with the provisions granting rights to rightsholders. (For more, based on the August 2015 leak, see this blog post.)
The final language of the TPP will soon be concluded and each country will then need to go through its own domestic processes to pass the agreement. In the United States, the TPP will go through the “fast track” authority passed by Congress earlier this year, which includes a 90 day waiting period after the Obama Administration sends the TPP to Congress for approval. Depending on when the TPP — which has been a controversial issue — is sent to Congress, a vote could come during the height of the United States’ election season. Canada is currently holding its elections, set for October 19, 2015. The new Parliament in Canada, once in place, will debate the TPP and vote on the agreement. Other parties in the agreement will also hold elections over the next year, which could impact both the timing of any final approval as well as substantive debate of the TPP in these countries.