Given that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement could become the world’s largest trade pact, negotiations from July 2-10 in San Diego are drawing criticism from protesters and politicians who view the treaty’s copyright proposals as a threat to Internet freedom.
During this thirteenth round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, nine nations connected by the Pacific Ocean are seeking accord on international business and investment issues. Parties include the United States, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, and Brunei. Lack of transparency in the process has become such a concern that representatives from Mexico and Canada were invited to join the treaty but will not be part of the negotiations even as observers.
As a treaty designed to ease corporate business on a global scale the treaty has numerous detractors, including Occupy San Diego protesters, who call it “NAFTA on steroids,” referring to the also controversial North American Free Trade agreement between Mexico, the United States and Canada. The provisions of the TPP on intellectual property are the target of Internet freedom activists who believe that they will inflict collateral damage on free expression. If international standards on copyright enforcement are set, opponents argue, repressive nations could use the laws as an excuse to silence dissent and defend their actions as “internationally acceptable.”
Ahead of negotiations, 132 members of Congress sent a letter to US Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk calling for increased disclosure of negotiation documents and increased consultation on the process with Congress. The final draft of the letter is available for download here.
In May, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA.) leaked the US draft proposal for intellectual property negotations for the TPP, dated February 2011, on his Keep The Web Open site. Ironically, some countries interpret posting leaked memos as a violation of copyright law. The US negotiation proposal and other leaked copyright proposals which surfaced since 2011 are also available at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), one of the nonprofits keeping a close eye on the TPP negotiations.
During his speech in November at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, President Obama said the TPP could be a model for other international trade agreements. International copyright enforcement could become stricter, depending on negotiations, which Obama said could also “incorporate a whole range of new trade issues that are going to be coming up in the future — innovation, regulatory convergence, how we’re thinking about the Internet and intellectual property.”
For updates from the negotiations follow the US Trade Representative’s blog on the TPP .
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