Large parts of the secret trade agreement, JEFTA (EU-Japan Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement), have leaked online.
Back in March, we covered the news that another secret trade agreement, JEFTA, has come to light. At the time, virtually nothing was known about the agreement. Apart from a name and a few vague descriptions, the nature of the agreement was largely shrouded in mystery. What we did know is that it is an agreement between Europe and Japan. Beyond that, nothing really substantive. Since then, nothing has really cropped up on the radar.
A lot of this has now changed. Last week, Green Peace leaked large chunks of the agreement. From Green Peace:
Behind closed doors and countless documents, details of a proposed deal between two of the world’s largest economies are being kept from us. Until now.
Chances are that the planned trade deal between the European Union and Japan has not been on top of your mind recently. And there is a reason for this. Governments have gone to great lengths to leave their citizens in the dark about a deal that can significantly impact our lives and the world we live in—with massive implications reaching from labour rights to environmental protection.
This is unacceptable. Which is why today Greenpeace Netherlands is releasing large parts of the secret EU-Japan deal.
The leaked portions of the agreement can be found on JEFTA Leaks, a subsection of TTIP-Leaks. The portions leaked cover a wide range of topics including ISDS (Inter-State Dispute Settlement) provisions. For us, the question is, what impact does this have on digital rights? We looked into the documents to find out.
JEFTA’s Electronic Commerce Section
This section seems a bit lean on anything that would raise any flags for us. The only thing we were able to locate was what is found at the very end:
Article [X10] Cooperation on Regulatory Issues of Electronic Commerce
1. The Parties shall, where appropriate, cooperate and participate actively in multilateral fora to promote the development of electronic commerce.
2. The Parties agree to maintain a dialogue on regulatory issues of electronic commerce with a view to sharing information and experience, as appropriate, including on related laws, regulations and their implementation, and best practices with respect to electronic commerce in relation to, inter alia:
(a) consumer protection,
(c) combatting unsolicited commercial electronic messages,
(d) the recognition of certificates of electronic signatures issued to the public,
(e) the challenges for small and medium enterprises in the use of electronic commerce,
(f) the facilitation of cross-border certification services,
(g) intellectual property
(h) electronic government.
What this open dialogue actually means is unclear for us. It does touch on spam and intellectual property laws, but beyond that, it’s hard to really say where something like that is leading. Could it be just talking about laws? If so, why bother putting it in a trade agreement at all? Does this mean direct influencing of the laws? Maybe. If so, what laws are to be discussed specifically? Regardless, there isn’t much that is actually clear here.
After reading through the Telecommunications Services chapter as well, we were unable to really find anything more of interest in this agreement. There are a few things one can think of here.
On the one hand, this could mean that extreme copyright laws as it relates to technology might not be a big factor in this agreement. Could this be consistent with the fact that the United States isn’t involved in the agreement? Maybe. After all, the US has reportedly pushed for extreme copyright laws in other agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP).
On the other hand, this doesn’t mean this agreement will never have such provisions. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) doesn’t have the US as a party and it, too, has some rather extreme copyright laws built into it. There’s really nothing stopping negotiators from adding in such provision later on in the agreement.
So, what about the comments made by Green Peace Netherlands? Well, they do express concerns about individual rights. Our focus is narrowly focused on technology and digital rights. It could very well be in reference to something else entirely.
There is certainly reason to keep an eye on the situation. A lot can change between when the agreement is being finalized and now. If we see anything develop, we’ll update you on the situation.