SINGAPORE: Day two of the Trans—Pacific Partnership talks in Singapore focused on setting standards for e—commerce and addressing legal issues surrounding the creation of a giant free—trade zone.
On the sidelines of the meeting, pressure groups are also gathering to raise concerns which they say are not being addressed. They are concerned that the talks will lead to less choice for Asia and more selling power for America.
Anti—smoking campaigners, for example, are concerned that the TPP will create legal loopholes that will allow tobacco companies to block attempts to put warnings on cigarette packets.
Dr Mary Asunta of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance said that some companies are using so—called "lipstick packs" to get around the regulations.
She said: "Because it’s a lipstick pack, and its square—ish, you find that the warning (picture on the cigarette pack) has been distorted."
Campaigners are also concerned the TPP will cut access to cheap HIV treatments and other generic drugs, and bring in anti—piracy laws which do nothing to cut counterfeiting but make it harder to watch movies and listen to hit songs.
Jeremy Malcom, intellectual property coordinator for Consumers International, said: "These are used as a pretext for stopping piracy, but the impact on commercial piracy is limited because commercial pirates are quite sophisticated. They can find ways around these digital locks quite easily.
"It is ordinary consumers who are impacted by them —— when they buy a DVD, they can’t play it on their home player or they can’t shift content on their phone to a computer and vice—versa."
Auckland University Law Professor Jane Kelsey said that US hopes of an October agreement are unrealistic, and any future accord may not be worth the paper it is written on.
Professor Kelsey said: "If the ambitions for this agreement —— which are to have a gold standard for the 21st century which will go further than any (previous agreement), including further behind the border with its disciplines, with governments —— it will be unsustainable in a political, economic and social sense because it will have such serious impacts on domestic sensitivities."
While the delegates try to iron out those differences, more progress may be made on the sidelines as individual countries discuss bilateral free trade agreements tailored to their own needs.
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