Concerned local business-sector representatives have had the chance to engage with local and overseas negotiators on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement at a stakeholders' forum, during the latest round of negotiations, in Auckland.

Five or six hours of presentations were mounted to inform the negotiators. These included some specifically from the ICT sector. The Fair Deal NZ Coalition had a separate lunch with negotiators, at which several five-minute presentations were given.

Don Christie, primarily representing NZRise, but also the open source movement, says the atmosphere was positive, but because of the continuing secrecy surrounding the negotiations, it is hard to say what practical effect the meetings had.

Negotiators professed a desire to "align" the legal frameworks of participating nations, while according respect to each country's individual legal systems, "but they kept saying 'it's complicated'," Christie says.

Discussions on the intellectual property chapter of TPPA were well-attended, he says. "I talked about the specific needs of SMEs, who will benefit from a more flexible IP regime." He also addressed the question of technological protection mechanisms to guard copyright material and the sanctions that TPPA might put in place against circumventing such mechanisms.

Under too strict a TPM regime, an attempt to run an alternative security scheme to Microsoft's Secure Boot under Windows 8, for example, might be construed as such an illegal circumvention, he suggests.

Christie gained the impression New Zealand negotiators have been persevering in a liberal stance, but the final decisions are in the hands of politicians, he says, and the IP chapter might be vulnerable to "horse-trading" for what are seen as greater free-trade benefits. When free trade is addressed in business forums including those politicians, Christie says, the role of a sensible IP regime in encouraging innovation should be continually emphasised.

Other provisions such as those on the regulation of pharmaceuticals should not be seen as irrelevant to the ICT business, he adds. More expensive medicines will affect the cost to any business of keeping its staff healthy and productive.