Trans-Atlantic Partnership Agreement the New Internet Threat?

By Drew Wilson

With all this talk about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which advocates say could derail the freedom many experience on the Internet today, another agreement has appeared in recent months that have some people raising eyebrows. It’s called the Trans-Atlantic Partnership Agreement (TAPA) and, like the TPP, it is very secretive in nature. Unfortunately, unlike the TPP, very little appears to be known about this new agreement at this point in time.

TAPA first appeared on our radar in a posting on the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) website. The posting discusses the trend of corporate organizations to insert laws countries must abide to within agreements that is suppose to be all about trade. At the time, the EFF mentioned the agreement briefly:

Local trade agreements are interconnected among hub-and-spoke systems, creating networks that transmit IP provisions across agreements, and eventually from one domestic IP regime to another. It’s a harmful network effect. That is the danger with ACTA, and it is the same threat posed by the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the recently announced Transatlantic Partnership Agreement (TAPA). These are an end run around democratic systems.

While the EFF did link to resources discussing both the TPP and CETA, there didn’t appear to be any resources devoted to TAPA. So, we did some more research on the topic.

Glynn Moody of Computer World UK discussed the various trade agreements and noted the following:

That means that ranged alongside digital activist groups that have already shown they can mobilise effectively against US-driven treaties seeking to impose harsh copyright enforcement measures, there are equally effective consumer groups who will be fighting tooth and nail to stop TAP leading to EU supermarkets being forced to sell chickens doused in chlorine dioxide and pigs fed growth hormones.

All-in-all, then, 2013 is already shaping up to be as interesting as 2012 as far as international trade agreements are concerned, and may well surpass it in terms of the breadth and intensity of the battles that will be fought in this arena.

The insinuation here is that there will be battles similar to what was seen in previous agreements in the past. While it appears to be speculation that there may be something within the agreement that won’t sit well with Internet activists, it isn’t unjustified. The trend so far with respect to Internet rights and various international agreements has been that the agreements and civil rights are almost always in an antagonistic relationship with each other. There’s been the doomed attempt with the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA). So, it isn’t too far fetched for some to look at TAPA presume that it is going to be the same old story of faceless negotiators working on consort with major corporate interests to hatch out an agreement that binds countries into laws that are contrary to what is in the interests of their own citizens.

Still, it appears that while it is an educated guess that TAPA will be no different than its numerous predecessors, it is still technically speculation at this point. Browsing through numerous pages trying to find out what is going to be in TAPA proved fruitless for us. So, unfortunately, there is just no solid evidence at this point to whether or not TAPA will adversely affect civil rights in similar fashion to all of its predecessors at this point. If critical information about this agreement does surface in the near future, it may be within another unauthorized leak just like every other agreement we’ve seen in the past.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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