07 November 2013

TPP and digital romanticism

As I prepare for a consultation - or 'consultation' - about the controversial TransPacific Partnership Agreement (aka TPP or TPPA or TRIPsplus or TRIP++) it's interesting to see the core paras on the TPP in the latest DFAT annual report [PDF] -
Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Progress in the negotiations accelerated in 2012–13 with TPP trade ministers confirming the commitment to finalise a comprehensive, regional agreement by the end of 2013, if possible. Through the five negotiating rounds, the department led Australia’s contribution to the conclusion of a number of chapters setting out disciplines for TPP parties. 
The TPP has the potential to eliminate tariffs and other barriers to trade in key Australian export markets and streamline trade processes across the TPP membership, including through adoption of common rules of origin and reduction of production costs. During the year, the department pressed for unprecedented levels of services, investment and government procurement commitments from TPP partners and drew attention to greater opportunities for facilitating trade via electronic transmission. 
In April 2013, current parties to the agreement—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam—agreed by consensus to admit Japan to the initiative. As Australia’s second largest export market, Japan’s entry is important and now means that the TPP countries will account for 38 per cent of global GDP. The department conducted domestic consultations on the TPP negotiations, holding stakeholder briefings in mainland capital cities and in the margins of negotiating rounds.
And that, folks, is where it ends.

I attended the public consultation in Sydney last week, where regrettably we received little more information than an indication of the TPP chapter headings and an indication that the Government expects to have negotiations completed by the end of this year, presumably followed at short order by a brisk scrutiny by a Senate committee before the Agreement becomes law. It is unlikely that the scrutiny will result in unwinding of particular features of the agreement.

The report features a nice photo of happy TPP negotiators, glossed thus -
The DFAT TPP team is a group of highly skilled and experienced negotiators from the department’s Office of Trade Negotiations. They work with experts from other Australian government agencies on what is a comprehensive ‘21st century’ trade agreement, with 29 chapters under negotiation. The 11 countries currently participating in the TPP negotiations are of differing sizes and levels of economic development, including the United States, Vietnam and Brunei. This makes navigating the dynamic and complex negotiating environment an enormous challenge. Japan’s entry to the negotiations in July 2013 will bring membership to 12 countries and represent over 34 per cent of Australia’s total two-way trade. Overcoming the sensitivities of individual countries and ensuring a strong outcome for Australia requires an in-depth knowledge of both the issues under negotiation and the countries at the table.
Lead negotiators draw on their trade, legal and economic expertise and their backgrounds in the department, as well as experience in the other government agencies and the private sector. The TPP team works closely with posts and holds regular public and private consultations with business, state government and other stakeholders across the country. 
Participating countries in the negotiations take it in turns to host meetings that involve over 500 delegates participating in as many as 12 parallel negotiating sessions over a two-week period. A unique feature is that the negotiators take up to a day out of their schedule to engage with business and other stakeholders to listen to their views on the content of the agreement.
There's a different perspective in 'Counter-commodification: The economy of contribution in the digital commons' by Andreas Wittel in (2013) 19(4) Culture and Organization 314.

Wittel states that
This is an article about digital production and the crisis of capitalism. It is about production in the digital commons and its implications for the building of alternatives to a commodified world. As digital production is at the very heart of cognitive capitalism, the digital commons is not just any other disruption of the process of commodification. This is the field of a fierce struggle over the future of the Internet and the future of capitalism itself. It is potentially the moment which moves back the frontiers of measurement, value and quantification towards qualities, values and an expansion of the gift economy. For this potential to unfold, it is vital that those who are giving, sharing, and contributing for the benefit of humanity are supported by global policies that enable them to do so. They have to be supported because their gifts are not based on reciprocity and the obligation to return the gift. This is an argument about the future of digital labour. The article concludes that this could be achieved through a global basic income scheme