Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey says New Zealand's negotiators in the Trans-Pacific Partnership discussions appear to be fighting the good fight, but this might prevent the deal being signed altogether.
Leaked yesterday, the intellectual property chapter of the controversial trade deal shows New Zealand – and most of the other countries involved – clashing with the US on around three-quarters of its contents.
Prof Kelsey says it's reassuring to see New Zealand sticking up for itself, but fears how much longer they can hold out.
"Our intellectual property negotiators we know have been very staunch," she said on Firstline this morning.
"The problem is – as we've always said and the leak proves – that the US is using this agreement to drive through new rules to benefit its companies, irrespective of the cost for other countries. Now, other countries are kicking back, but if they're going to pull a deal off, it's going to have to be a deal that [US President Barack] Obama can sell to the US Congress, and they've made it very clear that what they consider gold standard intellectual property rights – among other rules – are preconditions for any approval."
Democrats in the US have rejected Mr Obama's proposed fast-track process, which would have limited debate on the TPP in Congress. This will likely push any signing of the deal well beyond his – and Prime Minister John Key's – Christmas target.
But Prof Kelsey says this could ironically strengthen Mr Obama's hand, in that it "gives him even more leverage to say to the other countries, 'You want a deal? You give us what we want.'"
Negotiations continue in Salt Lake City next week, and Prof Kelsey will be there. She says the leak further strengthens the case for releasing the full text of the TPP as it stands.
"The Government needs to release the other chapters and it needs to go to the other negotiators and say, 'We all agreed we wouldn't release the text – it's become untenable. Let's agree to release it so we can have a debate over the other chapters like we are on the intellectually property one.'"
Trade Minister Tim Groser has refused to confirm or deny if the leak is genuine, except to confirm that there are indeed a number of differences in opinion between New Zealand and the US.
"The kind of glossy talking up that Tim Groser's been doing is not actually telling us what's really going on, and that comes back to the nub of the problem about the secrecy," says Prof Kelsey.
"This leak has blown the lid again off that excessive secrecy around this."
Mr Key has said in the past the full text of the agreement would be released after it was agreed upon by all parties, so Parliament can debate it.