RCEP: The new TPP?

SkyCIty, where negotiators are discussing RCEP (file)
SkyCIty, where negotiators are discussing RCEP (file)

Foreign trade representatives have descended on SkyCity in Auckland again, but they're not here for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Sixteen Pacific Rim nations are negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as an alternative in case the TPP falls through, but Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey says it's no better.

"It's almost as big, it's almost as aggressive, and if the TPPA falls over, then RCEP is likely to make the rules."

The RCEP includes six of New Zealand's top 10 trading partners.

Prof Kelsey says the negotiations are just as secretive as those for the TPP, and she's calling for more transparency.

"It shouldn't be negotiated by MFAT officials and the Trade Minister behind closed doors, and at present it looks like RCEP is going to follow that same pattern."

The TPP has been agreed to by all the participating countries, but faces a battle in the US with both major presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump opposed to it in its current form.

Protesters in Auckland shut down the motorway and several streets in the CBD when it was signed in February.

Prof Kelsey says competition between TPP and RCEP represents a battle between the US and China over the Asia-Pacific region.

The 16 countries negotiating RCEP are Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says when it comes to copyright and intellectual property, the RCEP is an improvement on the TPP in some regards, but threatens to "lay down new, inflexible copyright standards across the Asia-Pacific region".

The latest leaked draft appears to have rolled back what the EFF called "the worst provisions on copyright that we had ever seen in a trade agreement".