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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TPP: The New Threat to Internet Freedom

In this instance TPP doesn't stand for Tea Party Patriots but rather Trans-Pacific Partnership or as its its critics call it Taking Peoples Power. On the surface TPP appears to be an innocuous trade treaty between nine Pacific Rim countries: Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States but the secrecy surrounding the negotiation is astounding. The panel's drafts are classified and unavailable to the very senators who will vote on the treaty as it will probably brought up in a lame duck session with no time for anyone to read the fine print. More remarkable than the secrecy is the openness to trade groups. Business executives can access from the web data deemed too dangerous to share with the Senate.
Naturally a trade bill contains provisions concerning intellectual property and here the trouble begins. A cynic might argue that TPP is the international version of Sopa and its bastard step brother Protect IP. Supporters of TPP include the usual list of suspects, the Obama administration, the motion picture industry and the Chamber of Commerce. Chris Dodd, as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Motion Picture Association of America enjoys access to negotiating texts that he could not view as a senator. Thirty academics sent a letter to Ambassador Kirk expressing their concern over the lack of transparency. Kirk responded immediately “You may be surprised to know that USTR has conducted the most active outreach to all stakeholders relative to the TPP than in any [free trade agreement] previously, including the proposed disciplines on intellectual property.”
The academics replied; “USTR’s consultation process consists of choosing with whom to share its international legislative proposals and leaving the rest of the country in the dark until the deal is done,”
Naturally all this secrecy invites speculation and leaks have been scarce but critics claim and the USTR has yet to deny that the treaty would;

Limit how U.S. federal and state officials could regulate foreign firms operating within U.S. boundaries, with requirements to provide them greater rights than domestic firms;
Extend the incentives for U.S. firms to offshore investment and jobs to lower-wage countries;
Establish a two-track legal system that gives foreign firms new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges;
Allow foreign firms to demand compensation for the costs of complying with U.S. financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms.
I'm not a big fan of Senator Ron Wyden but he is right on point on this issue. In the video he expresses his concern about internet freedom which he considered to be imperiled by the proposed treaty. Listen to the entire video. It's worth you time.

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