19 Apr 2015

Sony emails reveal TPP concerns

11:52 am on 19 April 2015

Leaked emails between executives of Sony Pictures have revealed concerns in the United States over the secrecy of talks related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The emails about the proposed 12 country accord are included in documents stolen from Sony by hackers last year, and now made public on a special database set up by WikiLeaks.

US Trade Representative Mike Froman (C) speaks at a press conference for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in Sydney last year.

US Trade Representative Mike Froman (C) speaks at a press conference for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in Sydney last year. Photo: AFP / FILE

One email from a Sony executive invited the company's chief executive to meet the United States trade representative Michael Froman to discuss Sony promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

It said President Barack Obama and Mr Froman were keen for the company to talk up the partnership, though it noted the talks were a closed process so the way intellectual property was being handled was a secret.

Another email also revealed calls by IT companies for secrecy over IP and copyright issues related to the deal to be lifted, so they could judge what was on the table.

Meanwhile, a key opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has said the leaked emails reveal the intimate relationship between American trade negotiators and top US industries.

Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey said many key industries know exactly what is on the table.

"Not only do industry representatives sit on the committee that advises the negotiators, and we believe actually have access to the text, but they were even clearing their press releases in response to the leaked text past the trade negotiator before they were released."

And she said Mr Obama's introduction of the American trade bill as reassurance for TPP countries was do or die.

On Thursday, fast-track legislation was introduced to Congress, whereby members would have a yes or no vote on any deal that is struck.

She said far from being a sure thing, the Democrats are deeply divided over whether to pass the legislation.

"There is very little chance it would get through the House of Representatives, Obama needs to rely on the Republicans, there is a huge Democrat groundswell against it, so the chances of it passing are in fact pretty minimal."

Ms Kelsey says it would be a massive risk to commit to the proposed TPP until that bill is passed.

Trade Minister Tim Groser, meanwhile, is urging Japan and Canada to fully commit to the proposed TPP, citing Mr Obama's move to prepare Congress to seal a deal.

Mr Groser describes the move as an endgame and said the deadline is now very tight for reaching an agreement on the trade deal as the US moves into election mode.

He said some countries have not been prepared to agree to a deal until they knew where Congress stood, but Mr Obama has shown he wants the talks brought to a head.

  • Obama to get fast-track authority for TPP
  • Hacked Sony emails refer to Dotcom