The next round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations will take place from December 3-12 in Auckland, New Zealand, and it will be done with the same level of secrecy as the last 14 rounds.
And like all of the previous rounds of talks, it
will take place in a luxury venue, only this time in a high-end casino, that
embroiled in its own controversy over corrupt dealings.
The IP language in this intricate trade agreement would harm users’ digital rights in profound ways, such as pressuring ISPs to become Internet cops and criminalizing the distribution of DRM-circumvention tools even for fair uses.
It also attempts to protect temporary copies, against the logic of how the Internet works.
The U.S. content industry has lobbied for this
language just as they did with the SOPA and PIPA bills early this year. In
doing so, they continue to demonstrate the same significant disregard for
consumers as they did when they cooked up harmful provisions within those
But public interest groups are continuing to fight the secrecy. Several local and international organizations will be at the negotiations putting on events for civil society groups and trade delegates.
Last month, Canada and Mexico joined the agreement and both will be represented at the next round in December. However, they joined as “second-tier” negotiators, which means that they will have to agree to sections negotiated over the previous 14 rounds of talks without even seeing the text in advance.
As more nations join the talks, it is likely that newcomers will be unable to alter or have a say over any of the language that has already been drafted or agreed to by consensus by the negotiating states.
There is notable resistance coming from within Canada.
Civil society groups, experts, and legislators have already indicated strong opposition to the existing drafted text (at least what they know about it from leaked versions of the text). Canadian public interest organizations are especially resistant to their joining the negotiations, in light of a recent copyright reform bill that was negotiated after years of attempts to reform the existing copyright law.
The new Canadian legislation struck a balance between society and private interests, to reach pragmatic provisions that acknowledge users rights. All of the language that was hard-fought for in the law, Bill C-11, would be thrown out the window if Canada were to sign on to TPP.
As it stands, the trade agreement contains much
more restrictive, pro-rightsholder language on copyright and enforcement.
EFF, the StopTheTrap coalition, and
Tamir Israel are putting a letter to
Canadian authorities urging them not to accept the U.S. proposals on
copyright and enforcement.
During Obama's four-day visit to several Southeast Asian countries over the weekend, he made a brief stop on Sunday and announced that the U.S. "welcomed Thailand's interest in the TPP" at a joint news conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Due to a 2007 amendment to the Thai Constitution, any treaty that has an immense effect on the economic or social security of the country or results in the binding of trade, requires National Assembly approval to enter talks, as well as extensive public consultations following a treaty's conclusion.
Therefore it may take some time until Thailand
can officially join the negotiations.
In 2007, the Thai Human Rights Commission published a harrowing report describing how all the ways it would have endangered the rights and well-being of Thai people, and Thai civil society groups are now already resisting Thailand's entry into the TPP.
Given the lack of success in settling trade ties
with Thailand, however, and the
repeated appearance of Thailand on a yearly trade-sanction-threat list
called the Special 301 Watch List, getting them on board with the TPP
has likely been a high priority for the U.S.
While some U.S. and Japanese business leaders have repeatedly expressed its desire for Japan to enter the talks, domestic political complications make its entry no easy task.
Still, despite strong opposition to the TPP by
various Japanese industry sectors, Prime Minister Noda
may use the agreement as an election issue in attempt to gain favoritism
among the business community and to distinguish himself from the
long-powerful opposition party that threatens to overtake him in December’s
Many argue that strengthening trade ties with
Pacific nations is part of a broader U.S. strategy to establish itself more
prominently to counteract China’s growing economic influence in the region,
and to pressure them to
either join or adopt similar intellectual property reforms contained in
This week, a group of state legislators met with Deputy U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Demetrios Marantis and Assistant USTR Barbara Weisel to reiterate their worries that the TPP talks could constrain state government policies.
In light of statements from the USTR earlier this fall, it’s clear that U.S. trade representatives are taking notice of Congressional demands and concerns.
The Obama administration will undoubtedly move forward with these confidential, close-door meetings until they can eventually conclude TPP, despite its many promises to paving a new road towards transparent government. The content industry has been unfortunately very effective in getting what they want from our public representatives, and will continue to spend its resources to ensure that this complacency continues.
As long as the public remains passively ignorant of these efforts, these special interests will continue to whittle away at users’ rights in more and more countries.
The way to fight back is to make our voice heard:
The secrecy must be stopped.