TPP Resurrection Draws EFF’s Attention

We’ve been following the developments of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement for a while now. It seems that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), is now focusing more on the agreement.

Throughout the month of May, we’ve been following the developments of the TPP being resurrected. The possibilities of the resurrection started to pick up steam when a meeting took place took place two weeks ago. During that meeting, a topic of conversation is to decide whether or not to officially forge ahead without the US. From there, officials came out of the meeting with the green light to forge ahead with the agreement.

The TPP resurrection, dubbed the “TPP 11” for some, already has a timetable of completion by the end of the year. The idea is that the remaining 11 signatory countries would continue ahead without the US to ratify the agreement.

Of course, we are in early days, so there are a lot of unknowns. Yes, the deal has to be altered to reflect the lack of the US’s presence, but what other changes are going to take place? How feasible is the original time table?

Given the scope of the agreement, it’s no surprise that the agreement has a lot of people talking. Now, it seems, the EFF has also written their own commentary on the matter. In their posting about the resurrection of the agreement, the EFF expressed concern over the possibility of the agreements resurrection, but remains committed to ensuring that the voice of user rights are present in some form or another. From the posting:

We do know, however, that not all of the eleven countries are unified in their view about how the agreement could be brought into force. In particular, countries like Malaysia and Vietnam would like to see revisions to the treaty before they could accept a deal without the United States. This is hardly an unreasonable position, since it was the United States that pushed those countries to accept provisions such as an unreasonably long life plus 70 year copyright term, which is to no other country’s benefit.

Other TPP countries, such as Japan and New Zealand, are keen to bring the deal into force without any renegotiation, which could add years of further delay to the treaty’s completion. Japan also likely fears losing some of the controversial rules that it had pushed for, such as the ban on software source code audits. The country’s Trade Minister, Hiroshige Seko, has been quoted as saying, “No agreement other than TPP goes so far into digital trade, intellectual property and improving customs procedures.”

For now, that remains true; many of the TPP’s digital rules are indeed extreme and untested. But for how much longer? Industry lobbyists are pushing for the same digital trade rules to be included in Asia’s Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and in a renegotiated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Since RCEP and NAFTA together cover most of the same countries as the TPP, there will be little other rationale for the TPP to exist if lobbyists succeed in replicating its rules in those other deals.

The comments about a possible lack of unity seems to echo our earlier observations as well. This is, of course, one of the great unknowns about the agreement for the time being.

As for the extreme measures surrounding digital rules, we’ve noted these extreme measures earlier on. In our clause-by-clause analysis we published in 2015, we noted several provisions in the agreement that would likely prove problematic through the lens of digital rights. These provisions include the eradication of privacy for domain name owners, ratification of other treaties known to have serious problems with digital rights, increasing the length of copyright terms, criminal penalties for circumventing a TPM (Technical Protection Measure), unlimited damages for non-commercial infringement of copyright, government mandated spying for copyright infringement, authority to enforce copyright laws even when infringement hasn’t even taken place, cellphone seizures at the border for the purposes of enforcing copyright laws, Internet censorship, filesharing traffic shaping, notice-and-takedown provisions (Canada currently has a notice-and-notice regime), and provisions that would force ISP’s to hand over customer information.

The good news here is that an organization like the EFF is now writing about the resurrection of the agreement. The more eyes that are on the agreements developments, the better. There is a lot of steps and hurdles left to go for the agreement, but the wheels are already in motion to forge ahead with this agreement anyway.

The EFF also noted that there are other agreements being re-worked to possibly include many of these problematic provisions as well. This includes the North American Free Trade Agreement (NATA) which we noted last weekend as well as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which is an agreement we haven’t focused on yet, but will also keep an eye on wherever possible.

Either way, this is certainly a positive development. As long as there are multiple organizations watching these developments, society is better off as a whole.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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