Obama Will Sign Trans Pacific Partnership – Maybe We Should Be Concerned



President Obama declared his commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership last night during his State of the Union speech.

TPP is a trade agreement of goods and services. The agreement would link Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico and Canada into a “free trade” zone similar to that of NAFTA.

This treaty is NAFTA on speed. Many on the left , including the unions, are opposed to TPP, partly because these trade agreements often send more jobs overseas and reduce trade as is the case of our agreement with Korea.

Unions have a secondary problem with TPP in that it appears to give corporations more power over labor rules and agreements.

It is not only the left who should be concerned, however, this treaty could negatively impact our Constitution and our Internet.

President Obama made it clear that he supports it and while Congress has to approve it, the treaty will likely be “fast tracked.”

President Obama’s statement during the SOTU:

“Even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world presents not only dangers, but opportunities. To boost American exports, support American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union – because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.”

Every time one of these agreements is enacted, there are more countries that can challenge our laws. This treaty might allow foreign corporations within the U.S. to appeal American domestic rulings to an international tribunal which would in turn have the power to overrule our laws and impose sanctions on the U.S.

What should concern people more is the secrecy involved. The only people allowed to see the draft are stakeholders which includes hundreds of corporations and labor unions such as the AFL-CIO. The public and Congress cannot see the draft despite the fact that we are all stakeholders in the end.

Odd provisions are being put into the treaty by various stakeholders that are normally not in a trade treaty. One of these provisions concerns copyright infringement.

Copyright infringement of intellectual property has its own chapter in the TPP agreement according to leaks last June. There is one coalition that wants to employ copyright cops and treat infringers like pirates as in Somalian pirates. Joe Blogger in Oshkosh could conceivably find himself being tried by international courts.

One of the TPP papers being leaked on the Internet was put forth by special business interests, possibly Pharmaceuticals, the Motion Picture Industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Manufacturers of America.

They want the following copyright infringement issues included in the TPP:

    • Temporary copies to be placed under copyright protection. Can you imagine what this will do to ingenuity and furtherance of knowledge? They are basically saying that any time you temporarily copy something to read it or replay it, you will be violating copyright law and they want you to pay rent to do it. The Internet would soon become very expensive and out of the realm of the average user’s ability to afford it.
    • Circumvention of digital locks will be prohibited, which helps prevent copyright infringement but it also prevents lawful uses.
    • Copyright books are the author’s lifetime plus 70 years and copyright IP terms are the life of the author plus 50 years, but this group wants it to be longer. This will greatly limit creativity. Think of all the rewrites of Sleeping Beauty and the Wizard of Oz that would never have happened. In time, interest wanes because the interest was based in a historical context. That means most of these good ideas will no longer be used to develop new ideas.
    • Statutory damages will be extended so they will mimic the corrupt U.S. statutory damages which have led to insanely excessive damage awards. This will stifle creative innovation because people will fear lawsuits. Read more: Public Knowledge and New Zealand

Members of Congress are outraged by the secrecy. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore) has introduced legislation to protest the Obama administration’s outright refusal to share any controversial information with him even though he is the chair of a subcommittee on international trade.

Huff Po said last June that House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has published a separate document from the talks on his website out of desperation stemming from the lack of transparency.

Other Senators planned to write to the top trade negotiator, Ron Kirk, demanding disclosure. I don’t know where that stands.

The President whose close aides leak top security information to the NY Times for publication, won’t tell us the details of an agreement that could potentially harm business, American workers, and the Internet.

In conclusion, TPP might codify the harmful provisions and ignore safety mechanisms. It could damage our trading partners since their governments will be forced to adopt provisions that might not be good for them. It subjects our sovereignty and theirs to international courts and governance.

It is hard to know if TPP is good or bad or something in-between because it is all so secret.

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