TPP Talk: Tertiary Education Questions Answered

Column – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

We have recently responded to some questions from the Tertiary Education Union on education, government procurement and intellectual property issues in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation.TPP Talk: Tertiary Education Questions Answered

24 May 2011 by Mark Sinclair

We have recently responded to some questions from the Tertiary Education Union on education, government procurement and intellectual property issues in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation. Those questions and our answers are published here as they may be of wider interest:

Question 1: How is the agreement likely to impact on the ability of foreign private tertiary education providers to operate in New Zealand on a level playing field with providers based here in New Zealand?p

Answer: We are taking essentially the same approach to education issues in TPP as we have in other trade negotiations over the past decade.

Our starting point is the commitments made in the Uruguay Round in 1993. New Zealand made full commitments on private tertiary education services in the Uruguay Round in 1993. By contrast, we treated the provision of public education services as outside the scope of trade agreements. This remains our approach.

We do not anticipate that a TPP agreement will have any impact on the ability of foreign private tertiary education providers to operate in New Zealand alongside providers based here in New Zealand. The regime will continue to operate as it does today. Foreign private education providers today can seek to supply private education services in New Zealand, and must meet the same quality-based standards requirements to gain registration as any New Zealand supplier. Providing they meet the necessary registration standard, both private and public education providers (whether foreign or New Zealand-owned) are eligible for government funding.

Question 2: How will the new agreement distinguish between publicly and privately provided education – and/or will government procurement of education services be affected by this agreement?

Answer: Free trade agreements, including those New Zealand has negotiated, routinely exclude from their coverage any services, including public education services, provided in the exercise of government authority. We are not looking at making commitments on public education under the government procurement heading or elsewhere in a TPP agreement.

Question 3: I see lots of the discussion in the media to date relates to intellectual property rights. Academics have a keen interest in academic property rights – are those rights likely to be affected by this agreement?

Answer: Academics are both creators and users of intellectual property. The intellectual property produced by academics – or academic property rights – could include inventions or creations protected through, for example, patents and copyright. Any changes to New Zealand’s intellectual property settings as a result of a TPP Agreement could therefore impact on New Zealand academic intellectual property rights.

Last year, New Zealand’s intellectual property negotiators undertook a series of stakeholder consultations to help inform our position on intellectual property in the TPP negotiations. These consultations were led by officials in the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and included extensive input from academic institutions, libraries and museums. Officials intend to undertake a further round of consultations with interested stakeholders to update them on progress in the negotiations to date, and to seek further views on potential impacts of a TPP Agreement.

If your question about academic property rights relates to the issue of applying a uniform approach to the treatment of inventions or creations made by academics under contract to government-funded institutions (e.g. universities) we can tell you there has been no discussion of this issue within the TPP intellectual property negotiations.

ENDS

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