Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Would Impose Global Internet Censorship

Members of Congress have been prohibited from attending the meetings or even viewing drafts of the agreement, but employees of the mega-corporations that stand to benefit from it have their own logins. This is peculiar considering the Obama administration claims it is supportive of open government.

By Rachel Alexander | October 30, 2013

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being touted as a free trade agreement that will benefit the Pacific Rim countries, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. It is being called “one of the most significant international trade agreements since the creation of the World Trade Organization.” It standardizes 12 countries’ laws, rules and regulations in order to streamline trade.

But the American public hardly knows anything about TPP. Secret meetings are being held by un-elected government trade representatives to discuss it. In place of Congress, corporate representatives are making decisions on everything related to trade. Corporate interests are essentially replacing American laws. The only non-governmental interests allowed are “members of the Industry Trade Advisory Committee, 600 representatives from legacy big business interests like the RIAA and pharmaceutical industry groups.” (RIAA is the Recording Industry Association of America.) Google and Facebook are not present.

Members of Congress have been prohibited from attending the meetings or even viewing drafts of the agreement, but employees of the mega-corporations that stand to benefit from it have their own logins. This is peculiar considering the Obama administration claims it is supportive of open government. In contrast, the George W. Bush administration published the draft text of the last similar kind of agreement, the Free Trade Area of the Americas, in 2001. Even the 153-member World Trade Organization posts document drafts on its website for scrutiny. Only in June were drafts of the TPP agreement opened up to Congressional scrutiny, and even then members were prohibited from taking detailed notes or speaking publicly about what they saw.

TPP adds sweeping new regulations in the name of protecting intellectual property. The Electronic Frontier Foundation describes TPP as the biggest threat to the Internet in years. The atrocious provisions of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was defeated in Congress, have simply been transferred to TPP.

Fortunately, documents were leaked from the negotiations earlier this year revealing the plans for the Internet. The agreement contains very restrictive copyright law. Small-scale copyright infringement, which includes music downloads, is criminalized with severe fines imposed. It would prohibit “buffer copies” of files, which are incidental or duplicate files that computers make automatically in the process of moving things around. This is overkill and a logistical nightmare. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would be encouraged to kick users off their Internet connection after three complaints about copyright infringement. ISPs should not be forced to act as “Internet police,” as well as judge and jury. Penalties range up to $150,000, and the government could seize your computer, if there is suspected copyright infringement.

The expanded copyright and patent definitions imposed by the TPP will have the effect of decreasing access to generic drugs. There are restrictions on attempting to circumvent digital locks, which could hurt blind and deaf users trying to access legitimately acquired material, and make it difficult for librarians to share information. Not to mention these kinds of draconian restrictions stifle creativity and innovation.

If the U.S. does not comply with the TPP’s overreaching regulations, trade sanctions can be imposed against U.S. exports. Enforcement of the supranational laws will be applied via extrajudicial “investor-state” global tribunals. Foreign corporations could be awarded large judgments against U.S. taxpayers for “damages” to “expected future profits” due to TPP violations.

If fast-track authority, known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), is approved by Congress, the Obama administration will be able to unilaterally negotiate and sign TPP within a mere 90 days, without Congressional debate. Congress would be forced to vote on it quickly afterward, without debate or amendments. TPA is bad legislation because it unconstitutionally hands over vast powers of Congress to the executive branch. President Obama is trying to keep TPP as secret as possible so he can fast track it through Congress. The Obama administration has stated there is a high priority on concluding TPP talks before the end for the year.

Worldwide opposition is arising to the Obama administration’s TPP plan. Open Media has compiled over 100,000 signatures on a petition against it. The U.S. isn’t the only country with strong internal opposition. In May, A Fair Deal was started in New Zealand over objections to the copyright provisions. There are activists on both the left and right side of the political spectrum opposing TPP because it supplants U.S. sovereignty and elevates corporate rule above U.S. laws. Power is essentially being transferred from sovereign countries to foreign or international corporations.

There must be more public debate, input and transparency so Americans become aware of what is really going on before it’s too late. Public input from large corporations is insufficient. Many members of Congress have already been bought by slick lobbyists for these powerful multinational corporations, which funnel huge donations to their reelection campaigns. It must be exposed which corporations that stand to benefit from TPP are contributing heavily to members of Congress. If the Obama administration’s proposed free trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not defeated, the sovereignty of the United States will be severely undermined.

Rachel Alexander is the founder of the Intellectual Conservative and an attorney. Ms. Alexander is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.