TPP Has No Economic Benefit – Australian Pirate Party

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has made headlines for a number of years and now there’s been a development. The Pirate Party of Australia has concluded that, while the content of the agreement is still officially shrouded in mystery, they can conclude that the secretive agreement has no economic benefit.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

The Australian Pirate Party has come out swinging at the TPP today. The political party cited the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade comments that the agreement is suppose to eliminate trade barriers between countries. Then, at a meeting in Canberra, negotiators were asked several questions during a Question and Answer session where they allegedly dodged questions about the content of the agreement and anything related to criminal and copyright law in Australia.

Australian Pirate Party posting:

“It would be absurd to believe the line that DFAT will not be negotiating a treaty that would require changes to our domestic law. The simple fact is, every single time we sign one of these treaties, we limit our ability to reform our domestic legislation. We are ceding sovereignty through treaties and trade agreements,” commented Mr Molloy.

A report on bilateral and regional trade agreements by the Productivity Commission contains the recommendation that Australia should “not … seek to include IP provisions in further [Agreements], and should … only be included after an economic assessment of the impacts, including on consumers, in Australia and partner countries.”[2]

“It seems to be the trend that our representatives — elected and unelected — pick and choose which recommendations to follow. Why do we have commissions like this if their reports are ignored at the drop of a hat and are not regularly consulted?” Mr Molloy asked.

According to his notes, there is absolutely no economic case for the IP Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

“We are continually told that this Agreement is necessary to regional economic development, and yet there has been no evidence put forward that it would bring any economic benefit to Australia or the wider Pacific,” Mr Molloy continued. “Regional standards are important according to the negotiators, and yet there is no indication that those ‘standards’ being recommended would do anything other than complicate the introduction or reform of domestic legislation. We already have several international agreements that would need to be renegotiated if Australia wanted to modify its existing laws.”

As we noted earlier this month, leaked versions were made available to the public where many controversial provisions were found in the agreement. We cited Wikipedia for the following points at the time:

1. Include a number of features that would lock-in as a global norm many controversial features of U.S. law, such as endless copyright terms.

2. Create new global norms that are contrary to U.S. legal traditions, such as those proposed to damages for infringement, the enforcement of patents against surgeons and other medical professional, rules concerning patents on biologic medicines etc.

3. Undermine many proposed reforms of the patent and copyright system, such as, for example, proposed legislation to increase access to orphaned copyrighted works by limiting damages for infringement, or statutory exclusions of “non-industrial” patents such as those issued for business methods.

4. Would eliminate any possibility of parallel trade in copyrighted books, journals, sheet music, sound recordings, computer programs, and audio and visual works.

5. Requires criminal enforcement for technological measures beyond WIPO Internet Treaties, even when there is not copyright infringement, impose a legal regime of ISP liability beyond the DMCA standards.

6. Requires legal incentives for service providers to cooperate with copyright owners in deterring the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyrighted materials.

7. Requires identifying internet users for any ISP, going beyond U.S. case law, includes the text of the controversial US/KOREA side letter on shutting down web sites.

8. Requires adopting compensation for infringement without actual damages.

9. For copyright and trademark, criminal punishment would apply even to non-for-profit infringement.

While some of this may, as far as major corporations are concerned, be of theoretical economic benefit, I don’t see the economics to each country in question myself. Sure, it could kill innovation, curtail free speech, create a major social rift between consumer and government and divert much needed law enforcement resources from fighting real crime to enforcing the relatively trivial rules surrounding intellectual property rights (Honestly, what would you rather have a police officer do? Stopping a serial killer or arresting someone for downloading a Kiss album using Kazaa-Lite resurrected?), but create an economic benefit? Unless you are part of a company that would be used to circumvent all of this, it’s hard to see any economic benefit coming out of the TPP should it be finalized and ratified by the world governments.

I think the Australian Pirate Party has a good point. What demonstrated economic benefit is in there in the TPP for the countries who ratify it? I can’t make the connection myself given that all I can visualize are unproven talking points from major corporate interests.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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