There is so much wrong with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), I could be writing this article for months with all the rabbit holes one finds when researching this, and it would take a day to read it, so I will do my best here to summarize why you should be concerned about the TPP.
It has been described as “NAFTA for the Pacific Rim”, but that description downplays the insidiousness of TPP and works only in the sense that they are both trade agreements. The comparison quickly falls apart after that. In a nutshell, it’s a trade agreement that is currently being negotiated in secret between 11 (or 12) Pacific Rim countries. The negotiations are being influenced heavily by corporate lobbyists, and seeks to literally hand the world over to corporate control.
The TPP is drawing heavy criticism from experts in public health and health care, freedom of speech, intellectual property rights, investments, the tech industry, agriculture, environmental protection groups, consumer advocates, and more.
The agreement is being negotiated by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the Unites States of America, and Vietnam. Japan was recently added as an interested party that could join the negotiations to make 12 negotiating countries.
Why should you be concerned about this?
The agreement being negotiated changes rules around internet downloads, food production and regulation, copyright law, patent protections, pharmaceutical protections and much more. As another author pointed out in the research I was doing on this, I have to be careful to talk about the TPP impact as what it “could” do, since there have only been trace details leaked about what is being negotiated, and the deal is not yet finalized.
Readers of this blog should be concerned about what the TPP could mean for the Public Domain.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this trade agreement seeks to impose the most significant expansion of copyright terms in the last 20 years. Copyrights on individually created works would increase to the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years. Corporate copyrights (eg Mickey Mouse) could be extended out to 95, and in some cases 120 years. I don’t think I need to explain that this would cause the already shrinking Public Domain to retreat even more quickly and completely than ever before. A shrinking public domain restricts innovation, and restricting innovation is never good for an economy.
File downloads could be criminalized. A number of consumer advocacy groups are saying that the TPP could force countries to institute criminal penalties even for small-time downloaders.
Your Internet Service Provider could become copyright enforcers. A leaked 2011 draft of Article 16 (PDF) mandates that countries use “legal incentives” for ISPs to do the heavy lifting on copyright enforcement. This is seen as forcing your ISP to monitor and police all of your internet activity, sniffing for unauthorized activity.
The enforcement doesn’t stop at the ISP level though, you yourself could be forced to pay fines for Internet use, you could be forced to remove online content, including entire websites, and you could even have your access to the Internet terminated.
“Fair Use” exceptions could be severely restricted. Currently you are allowed top do things like copy parts of textbooks for educational purposes or include segments of film in YouTube videos for the purpose of critique, commentary or satire. The new TPP proposes a stricter test for Fair Use.
Remember CISPA, SOPA, PIPA and all that wonderful stuff? Well, it’s all back in essence in this trade agreement. Many are calling TPP “the Internet Trap”.
For Canada, “CanCon” rules could be obliterated. Through the TPP, American media giants are pressuring the repeal of Canada’s rules around “Canadian Content” in broadcasting. The CanCon rules were designed to protect and promote the Canadian industries of film, recording and performing arts by preventing them from being crushed by American giants. This is just one of the ways in which the agreement is being used to circumvent domestic laws. This same tactic is seen repeatedly in other articles.
Jobs could flood offshore in another way in which the agreement is being used to circumvent domestic laws, such as the “Buy American” policies.
One of the major articles spells out financial deregulation. This means loss of oversight and could lead to even worse financial meltdowns than we’ve already experienced.
It could affect your grocery bill. The TPP introduces regulations that are contrary to the principles of supply management, and it will further strain first world farmers and food producers.
It is currently being negotiated that pharmaceutical companies can institute longer patents that could preserve pharmaceutical monopolies and reduce access to affordable medications. Even Medecins Sans Frontieres is campaigning against the TPP.
Foreign corporations would be essentially able to “attack” nations financially if in the opinion of corporate investors that nation maintains a domestic law that will diminish their “expected future profits”.
It is reported that some 600 corporations have had access to the TPP negotiations. stoptpp.org is reporting that some of these corporations are such highly ethical and corporately responsible leaders as Wal-Mart, Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, Halliburton, Philip Morris, GE, GM and Apple.
Why all the secrecy?
It’s okay for the government to collect and keep all records of communications, transactions, and only the NSA knows what else on every citizen, but it’s not alright for those same citizens to know what their governments are doing in their interest?
Huffington Post reports that U.S. House Rep Alan Grayson (D – Orlando) was permitted to look at the document after filing a Freedom of Information , but not allowed to comment on it. He told HuffPo: “Having seen what I’ve seen, I would characterize this as a gross abrogation of American sovereignty … And I would further characterize it as a punch in the face to the middle class of America. I think that’s fair to say from what I’ve seen so far. But I’m not allowed to tell you why!” Watch Alan Grayson speak pretty frankly on the secrecy of the TPP.
The details are not secret to the lobbyists, though. Canadian newspaper The Star has reported that corporate lobbyist groups (that the government banded together into a “Trade Advisory Group”) have received special access to the details of the agreement.
The latest meeting of the countries negotiating TPP was held in Vancouver, Canada, on June 17. This meeting was not announced, and drew loud protests.
Furthermore, OpenMedia has discovered that the deal is so secretive, not all countries are even allowed to see the whole agreement. For instance, Canada has received only limited access to drafts of the agreement.
The TPP is not good for us on so many fronts, it is little wonder that the leaders negotiating this deal want to keep everything about it as secret as possible. In order to participate in the negotiations, participants must first sign confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements. The secrecy is being enforced by the Obama Administration, who have categorized the deal as “Classified Information”. Everyone who is authorized to receive information about the negotiations is warned that all texts are watermarked and can be traced back to the source. Sharing of the information isn’t even allowed within government departments or agencies without prior approval.
I hope I’m not the only one whose red flags go up when this kind of thing happens. It’s not often that you keep good news this closely guarded.
What can you do?
Well, besides get angry as hell, there are plenty of groups protesting the TPP, and a list of some of the web sites of these groups is provided below. Also, you can contact your representatives in government. Tell them that you demand transparency on the TPP. Tell them what you don’t like about the TPP. Tell them you don’t want the TPP.
It’s all about money, money, money. Why can’t we have negotiations for something like a global healthcare system, or a food distribution system that doesn’t see multiple billions of dollars of food wasted a year in some countries, while other countries starve to death for want of a fraction of that surplus? We’re a planet of human beings, not a planet of potential profit margins. We need FAIR trade, and not FREE trade.
The 18th round of negotiations are currently set for Malaysia in mid-July, and a finalized agreement is currently pencilled in for some time this fall.
We DON’T need this TPP and we certainly don’t need it fast-tracked like this. I’m only touching on the high points here. If I went into detail, I’d probably never get this blog post done. I encourage you to check out the links provided. For example, the bit about your ISP monitoring your internet traffic, sniffing for unauthorized activity includes a “three strikes” type infraction system. After three strikes, your internet is cut off. Also, as part of this monitoring, the TPP seeks to permit “deep-packet-inspection”, which publicknowledge.org describes as “akin to the USPS opening your mail”.
What a time to be reading George Orwell’s “1984” for the first time. Sheesh.
Groups protesting the TPP:
The Electronic Frontier: https://www.eff.org/issues/tpp
Stop the TPP: http://stoptpp.org/
Popular Resistance: http://www.popularresistance.org/
Flush the TPP: http://www.flushthetpp.org/
Our Fair Deal: (petition and information): http://ourfairdeal.org/
Public Citizen: http://www.citizen.org/TPP
Open the TPP!: http://openthetpp.net/
Public Knowledge: http://www.publicknowledge.org/search/node/TPP
It’s Our Future (NZ): http://www.itsourfuture.org.nz/
Other sites you may want to see:
Public Knowledge’s site on the TPP:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s video on the TPP:
Knowledge Ecology International’s list of leaked documents on TPP:
The US Government’s official site on the TPP: