Stealth Trade Agreement Secret Negotiations
by Stephen Lendman
Two other articles address the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). They discuss what the companion article to this one calls a trade deal from hell.
Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch says it’s a “Corporate Power Tool of the 1%.” Secret negotiations plan:
- offshoring millions more US jobs to low wage countries;
- freeing giant banking crooks entirely from oversight;
- banning “Buy America” policies in deference to global marketplace mandates;
- decreasing access to medicines and making prescription drugs less affordable;
- infesting America with toxic foods and other harmful products; and
- destroying fast eroding environmental and health safeguards.
In many respects, TPP represents a death sentence for fundamental human rights, environmental protections, employment prospects, and constitutional freedoms. Nonetheless, it’s being secretly discussed in multiple negotiating rounds.
Obama officials push it. They’re pressuring negotiating nations to accept Washington diktats. They urge others to join those currently involved.
Twelve negotiating rounds were held. From July 2 – 10, San Diego is hosting round 13. US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk held a July 2 Direct Stakeholder Engagement.
He’s part of the problem, not the solution. Tech Dirt.com says he “continues to insult the intelligence of the Senate.”
Senator Ron Wyden (D. OR) questioned him about lack of transparency. Most congressional representatives have no access to TPP documents. At the same time, corporate officials on government advisory boards and selected business friendly NGOs are kept fully informed.
Negotiators demand no public revelations or information sharing.
Like his predecessors, Kirk represents entrenched power. Public interests are spurned. So is Congress. Wyden chairs the Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness.
Unlike corporate representatives able to access TPP documents online, Wyden must visit USTR offices, remain in a private room, and take no notes or make copies of anything he sees. He can’t even bring his own staff expert with him.
At issue is why hasn’t the entire Congress stopped this?
On July 2, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) headlined “Internet Users Again Shut Out of Secret TPP Negotiations,” saying:
Sinister trade deal talks threaten Internet and other fundamental freedoms. The public is entirely shut out. So are most congressional members.
What’s ongoing “not only lacks transparency, it’s completely incompatible with our democratic notion of society.”
EFF’s International Property team attended “the first days” of round 13 negotiations. IP Director Carolina Rossini lead them. She focuses on Internet and IP law and policy, cooperation theory, international IP negotiations, and open licensing.
EFF’s International Intellectual Property Coordinator Maira Sutton is also involved. She monitors emerging trends and developments in international freedom of expression, privacy, digital consumer rights and innovation.
Team members hope to do more to raise public awareness about ongoing “shady proceedings.”
TPP provisions aim to enact global copyright mandates and more. National sovereignty won’t matter. Corporate lobbyists want it subverted.
If enacted, TPP will “prevent countries from passing, or even retaining, pragmatic copyright legislation appropriate” for individual country needs.
Provisions discussed are secret and destructive of personal freedoms. They include intellectual property (IP), copyright enforcement, anti-circumvention measures, and liability for ISPs and online hosting providers.
Leaked information only has come out. From what’s known, everyone should be “furious that government representatives are negotiating an agreement (to) harm online expression, privacy, and innovation.”
Negotiating countries include America, Australia, Malaysia, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Brunei, Canada and Mexico. Japan’s involved without formal status.
Expect other pressured countries to join them. Some will jump voluntarily. Draconian enforcement standards will be created worse than ones in place.
Many groups joined the anti-TPP fight. They’re holding San Diego events and actions. They include OpenMedia.ca, Public Knowledge, ONG Derechos Digitales, Free Press, and others. Expect new ones to join.
They comprise an international coalition against TPP’s assault on Internet and other personal freedoms.
Congressional demands for transparency are growing. Backing up rhetoric with action is essential. Over 130 House members wrote USTR Kirk. Four senators joined them, including Wyden.
They demand members of Congress and groups advocating Internet freedom have full access to TPP documents.
In a joint statement, Senators Wyden, Sherrod Brown (D. OH), Jeff Merkley (D. OR), and Robert menendez (D. NJ) said:
“Groups essential to the success and legitimacy of any agreements are not being provided the opportunity to provide meaningful input on negotiations that have broad policy ramifications.”
“If Congress and the broader public are not informed of the exact terms of the agreement until the conclusion of the process, then the opportunity for meaningful input is lost.”
“The lack of transparency and input makes passage of trade agreements more contentious and controversial.”
In June, Representative Darrell Issa (R. CA) leaked TPP’s IP chapter. Last year he opposed the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Technology companies raised concerns. They have similar apprehensions about TPP.
In late May, Wyden introduced legislation opposing its secrecy. Only about a dozen congressional members know its contents. They’re part of a Congressional Oversight Group.
According to Wyden, a 2002 law requires all members of Congress be given full access. Legislation he introduced stresses full disclosure.
On July 3, a joint statement from EFF, Public Citizen, Knowledge Ecology International, and Public Knowledge addressed USTR Kirk’s new copyright exceptions and limitations introduced in San Diego.
It includes a “3-step test.” It involves restricting copyright exceptions like fair use. Its secret proposal includes provisions similar to Article 13 of the WTO TRIPS (Trade-related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights). It states:
“Members shall confine limitations or exceptions to exclusive rights to certain special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the right holder.”
Depending on TPP’s actual language and interpretation, it may restrict fair use and other copyright exceptions and limitations. They’re vital for issues regarding culture, science, education, innovation, and the ability of everyone in free societies to benefit from them.
In 2000, the WTO defined the “3-step test” narrowly and restrictively. It makes it hard to justify legal limitations or exceptions to exclusive copyright ownership.
International trade agreements must protect vital exceptions and limitations. TPP is no exception. The Berne and Rome Conventions include provisions providing them without a “3-step test.”
Advocacy for Internet Freedom
On July 2, Free Press.net joined over 100 other advocacy groups, human rights organizations, technology companies, and concerned individuals in issuing a “Declaration of Internet Freedom.”
It aims to “preserve the Internet as a platform for speech, innovation and creativity.”
Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron issued the following statement:
“Today’s launch of the Declaration of Internet Freedom is another major step forward in the growing movement to define and defend the online freedoms all people should enjoy.”
“We’ve seen the power that millions of people have against threats from corporate and government interests alike — whether in fighting for Net Neutrality or against SOPA. Now comes a moment for us to shape, to debate and to unite behind a positive, proactive vision for the Internet’s future.”
Free Press Internet Campaign Director Josh Levy said:
“Earlier this year, a big-tent, post-partisan coalition came together to fight against SOPA and PIPA, two bills that threatened to cause irreparable harm to the open Internet.”
“Now members of this same group are fighting not just to stop bad legislation, but to secure and protect our universal freedom to connect online.”
“We want Internet users worldwide to engage with these principles, discuss them, remix them and make them their own, improving the final product in ways that only the Internet makes possible.”
Supportive organizations advocate a free and open Internet, full transparency, and participation in discussions relating to its policies.
They firmly oppose censorship. They support universal access to fast and affordable networks. They want the benefits of Internet technology to serve everyone equitably.
A Final Comment
On July 4, AP headlined “European Parliament overwhelmingly rejects ACTA anti-piracy pact,” saying:
Voting 478 against, 39 in favor, and 165 abstentions, they rejected unrestricted supranational global trade rules. If established, they’d trample on national sovereignty, privacy and personal freedoms.
In October 2011, Obama lawlessly circumvented Congress. He signed ACTA. He falsely claimed it’s not a treaty. He usurped diktat authority. He claimed he acted by “executive agreement.” He strong-armed other nations to go along.
The companion article to this one calls TPP ACTA 2.0.
AP said the EU Parliament defeat means TPP is dead in Europe – “at least for the moment.”
These type measure never die. They don’t even fade away. They lurk unnoticed surreptitiously. At opportune moments, they resurface under new names.
The European Commission serves as the EU’s executive arm. Its spokesman said it may take another vote once a court ruling decides on whether ACTA violates fundamental EU rights.
Supporters claim enacting it would standardize international IP right laws. Opponents understand it means censorship and loss of online freedom.
It involves far more than counterfeiting issues. It covers copyrights, patents, and other intellectual property forms, including the Internet.
It’s also about the ability of users to communicate, collaborate and create freely. Moreover, it requires Internet intermediaries to police cyberspace and its users.
As a result, it raises serious questions about open affordable access, free expression, personal privacy, and fair use rights.
It’s an unabashed assault on personal freedoms. As explained above, Obama usurped diktat authority. He signed it extrajudicially. He lawlessly circumvented Congress.
Freedom in America is fast eroding. It’s an endangered species. Some congressional members talk, but few act act to save it. Revolutionary activism is the only way.
It’s high time enough concerned people understood the threat and acted forthrightly to prevent it. It’s our only chance.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.