Australia's lead negotiator in the latest round of Trans Pacific Partnership talks has declined to give assurances that participants will not agree to anything that undermines Australian law.
Sources who attended feedback sessions between TPP parties and stakeholder groups in Melbourne yesterday relayed the lack of assurance when questions were put to negotiator Hamish McCormick.
Members of the press were barred from attending the sessions.
Most questions asked of the negotiators by stakeholders were answered by the Australian - and not other countries' - negotiators.
McCormick said that negotiators will not be releasing any draft texts of the proposed TPP agreement.
Each country had its own consultation process and interested parties were welcome to write or request a meeting with his team.
In relation to the contentious intellectual property draft chapter, a US negotiator told attendees that there were "holes yet to be filled" by various country's drafts.
Stakeholder sources told iTnews that there were “lots of brackets on US proposals”. In trade parlance, a bracket implies other countries had positions at odds with those ascribed to the US proposals.
Krista Cox of the US Public Interest group, Knowledge Ecology International, tweeted several times from inside the meeting concerning the secrecy of responses to stakeholders.
“How many ways will TPPA chief negotiators find not to directly answer stakeholders?” Cox tweeted at one stage.
The next round of TPP negotiation is to be held at an as-yet undisclosed location. Sources believed it to be in the United States from May 8 to 19.
A further round of negotiations is expected in New Zealand later this year.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is expected to convene a briefing for journalists on March 9 to discuss the progress from this week's discussions.