After years of secrecy, trade officials have finally released the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. Numerous leaks have shed some light on the deal, the most recent of which was Wikileaks’ release of the final version of the IP section of the deal. This will be the first time the public will see the entire deal in its final version. Despite the length of the document, the EFF already has analysis which covers some of the largest issues in the deal.
Of the greatest concern is the Investment chapter, which lays the procedure for investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). This allows private companies to sue sovereign nations if their laws or policies are harmful to their business. It was originally believed that IP would not be subject to ISDS arbitration, but that is not the case as IP is considered an asset subject to the ISDS process. For an example of where this sort of provision might lead, consider that Philip Morris is suing Australia under a similar free trade agreement. Philip Morris believes the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act interferes with their trademark rights. The entire ISDS system is a tool for companies to circumvent the democratic process and crush any laws they disagree with.
The EFF also criticizes the Electronic Commerce chapter for prioritizing trade interests of privacy and security. Many countries have regulations regarding data transfers that cross national borders, in order to protect the privacy of their citizens. This agreement would allow countries to still do so but requires that such regulations do not amount to “arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on trade.” Of course that provision is open to interpretation, and companies may use the arbitration process to attack perfectly reasonable privacy regulations if they interfere with business interests. The complaints are reiterated against the Telecommunications chapter, which similarly prioritizes trade and business interests over privacy and security.
Due to the size of the deal, the EFF will still be digging further into it, but what they’ve found already is worrisome enough. The member states have not yet ratified the deal, so it is still possible to stop it. The EFF encourages people to join its protest against the TPP at Washington, DC on November 16.
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