By Drew Wilson
Drew Wilson comments on an article written by a trade adviser who expressed disappointment over the fact that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was not at the top of US president Barack Obama’s agenda.
Picture this: you support something and you want to promote it to the best of your abilities. Here are the problems: You don’t know anything about it. Even if you did know anything about it, you can’t necessarily say any details about it. All you have to rely on is a few buzz words that may or may not have anything to do with what you are trying to support and you have precisely zero evidence to back you up. If you’re like me, you’d probably have second thoughts and would want to wait for more details to come out. This is more or less the position TPP supporters find themselves in. It would be something to laugh off and cast away if the consequences embedded within the TPP should countries around the world adopt it into law weren’t so dire.
Where are these supporters? They hang out in business and trade sites talking up why these agreements are so great and wonderful. Case in point is a recent article in the Diplomatic Courier where Sr. International Trade Advisor at Miller & Chevalier Chartered P. Welles Orr wanted Obama to have the TPP at the top of his agenda. Like so many other supporters before him, he talks up knocking down tariffs and trade barriers and how this is a “next generation agreement”.
Like so many supporters before him, Orr is beautifully vague on how this agreement would accomplish such wondrous feats that you’d almost wonder if it would give everyone a flying car and have unicorns delivering the morning paper every day in the process. Of course, to be fair, that isn’t necessarily his or any other supporters fault per-se. The TPP, as we discussed earlier is officially shrouded in secrecy. The only reason people knew any of the details at all was because draft documents have been leaked and the details show this has very little to do with trade and much more to do with corporate powers creating laws including changing the criminal code to suit their business interests.
One chapter that leaked, entitled the “Investment” chapter, had activists raising alarm bells that the TPP would allow corporations to sue local governments if their head offices were located in a country where a specific regulation didn’t exist. So, for example, if there were certain environmental regulations somewhere in Canada, an oil company has the right to sue them in an international tribunal because their head office is located in China and, in China, that regulation didn’t exist in the first place. That’s just one chapter. The TPP has 26 of them.
Of course, one of my favorite parts of the opinion piece is this:
It aims to cover industrial and agricultural goods, textiles, and apparel, and will address rules on intellectual property protection and trade in services.
After analyzing the intellectual property portion of the agreement, it’s actually somewhat ironic that this agreement is supposed to be pro-business when some portions are actually quite anti-businesss. Take, for instance, the three strikes law the agreement proposes. This would harm small businesses that offer Wi-Fi because now it is an imperative that these businesses monitor their networks for any signs of alleged infringement. Not exactly an easy task if the business has larger concerns like making sure the bills are paid on time and trying to get the word out that they even exist in the first place. The amount of resources necessary to put tracking and filtering technology on such services could very well be huge and, chances are, the users will eventually figure out a way to bi-pass restrictions in the first place. If the business gets three strikes because a few users decided to download DVD rips on public networks, then they risk losing a feature that could have otherwise drawn business. If said business is barely surviving (and, lets face it, the economy isn’t exactly a bed of roses these days), a three strikes law could mean the difference between just barely staying afloat and having to close the doors.
Another point to be made is the fact that it compels ISPs to filter the Internet. As we addressed in an earlier post when discussing SOPA, ISP level filtering carries enormous consequences such as the security of the Internet itself. If different people are using different DNS services to bi-pass filtering, one person accessing “google.com” can be very different from another person accessing “google.com”. What you’d have is a very fractured Internet where some DNS services used could very well be compromised – hence the fears of security. This doesn’t even begin to address victims who could be caught up in false copyright accusations or people’s use of proxies or VPN services.
While the line “address rules on intellectual property protection” sounds innocent enough, what we are talking about with respect to the TPP is actually very devastating. If putting liability on small businesses and damaging the very infrastructure of the Internet is merely “addressing” copyright rules, I’d sure hate to hear what “beefing up” copyright laws would be.
In any event, it’s amusing that some people actually attempt to look good while supporting the TPP, but in the end, they always seem to end up looking silly doing it. This guy, at least in this attempt, is no different.
Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85