By Meghan Sali
June 1, 2015
OpenMedia original article
What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?
We’ve been seeing those letters ‘T-P-P’ show up everywhere recently, followed by the proclamation that the mammoth agreement will soon be finalized, after more than five years of negotiations.
But before we lock ourselves in, there are a few things that we all need to be aware of about the TPP, and unfortunately they aren’t pretty:
It’s being negotiated in complete secrecy
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being negotiated right now between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Chile, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and Peru.
The agreement has 29 Chapters, and only 5 of them deal with ‘trade’ as you or I might imagine it (think tariff reductions and import/export regulations). More importantly, citizen stakeholders have been effectively shut out of the having any meaningful role in the process from the very beginning.
Access to the negotiating texts are severely restricted, with very few people aside from negotiators (and the lobbyists who helped write the agreement) allowed to see the inner workings. In fact, Canada’s Trade Critic and NDP MP Don Davies, cannot see the agreement.
Negotiators of the agreement have been sent to obscure locations to hold meetings, trying to hide away from local protests that inevitably spring up wherever they convene. A Canadian round in the summer of 2014 was even moved 3500 km across the country at the last moment, preventing a robust protest of visiting negotiators and the TPP itself.
Everything we know about the TPP, we know either from official releases designed to promote the agreement, or from various leaks published by Wikileaks. If we know that democracy and informed consent go hand in hand, how can Canadians make decisions for their best possible future when they are missing most of the information?
It could break your digital future
The TPP is also one of the first agreements of its kind to include an Intellectual Property Chapter, which tries to set global regulations for Intellectual Property (IP) and standards of enforcement.
We know through leaked documents that the proposals outlined in the IP Chapter are extremely restrictive, and seek to make a variety of changes that would, as the United Nations has recently warned, threaten human rights and restrict access to science and culture.
Some of the potentially dangerous proposals–it’s important here to remember that we can’t even be sure of what is actually being negotiated due to extreme secrecy–include:
lengthening copyright terms, keeping important works out of the public domain
increase liability for intermediaries, like your ISP or your favourite news site, or blog
criminalizing your everyday use of the Internet, possibly even enacting prison sentences for non-commercial infringement like file-sharing
implement a global ‘notice and takedown’ regime, that will see legal content removed from online
generally make your Internet use more expensive, censored and policed
Find out more about how the TPP will affect your Internet use at OurFairDeal.org.
It has the potential to dismantle our laws
Beyond the extreme secrecy, the TPP has two additionally concerning aspects that would disenfranchise local decision-makers and Canadians from being able to have a real say in how the agreement functions.
The first is investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), a provision that allows for foreign companies to sue federal governments over laws that have the potential to impact their future profits. A good example of how this has happened in the past can be found in the case of tobacco Giant Philip Morris suing Australia over warning labels on cigarettes. Considering that Canada is the most-sued nation under FTAs, Canadians should be wary of this little-known provision, that the Electronic Frontier Foundation suggests could be used to curtail fair use/fair dealing and free speech online.
Equally scary, agreements that include the United States are subject to an aspect of U.S. trade policy that seems designed to undermine other nations’ democratically-created rules. It’s called certification, and essentially allows the U.S. to vet other countries’ laws to make sure they ‘conform’ with the agreement, before implementing any of the changes at home.
No other country claims this power under the TPP, and already over 40 Parliamentarians from TPP countries have spoken out about this unfair condition. We know from past experience that the U.S. is perfectly happy to pressure other nations into accepting policies written by media lobbyists–just look at the case of the aggressive demands for copyright reform foisted on Canada, before they were even admitted to the negotiating phase of the TPP.
This will affect everyone who uses the Internet
Perhaps the most concerning part of the TPP is its ability to re-shape the rules for how we share and collaborate online–globally. It has been said before, and bears repeating: even if you don’t live in a TPP country, it’s inevitable that some of your favourite websites and services do.
As we saw with the debate over site blocking in the infamous SOPA/PIPA/ACTA debates, bad digital policy begets more bad digital policy. And considering that the U.S. is keen on exporting its policies to the rest of the world–right now we’re watching life +70 years become the new global standard for copyright terms–we know that if we allow the TPP’s backwards provisions to set the global digital agenda, there may be no going back.
So there you have it. A massive, secretive, agreement negotiated by unaccountable and unelected representatives, largely of industry and Big Media.
In spite of the massive implications of this important deal, people still don’t know what the Trans-Pacific Partnership is. Here's how Canadians we spoke to responded:
What can you do?
While all this might sound scary, it’s important that we’re reminded of the role that each of us can play in holding decision-makers accountable to the people whom they represent. The TPP is not a done deal, far from it. And we’ve made sure there is an easy way for you to take action.
In fact, right now the agreement sits at the edge of a precipice, as U.S. legislators and citizens fight to defeat Fast Track legislation, which would give the government power to finalize the deal, sans all the messy ‘consultation.’ Without the power to Fast Track the TPP, other countries are hesitant to offer the kinds of concessions seen as necessary to locking this binding global rulebook into place.
Go to StopTheSecrecy.net, and send a message directly to your Trade Minister about the TPP. By telling Min. Ed Fast today that you won’t support a government that overwrites our democratically-created laws and censors the Internet, you’ll send a message to our government that Canadians expect transparency and democracy to reign supreme.
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