On Wednesday, WikiLeaks released details pertaining to a highly secretive, multinational trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, warning that passage of the NAFTA-esque trade agreement could have a serious negative impact on Internet freedom, innovation, medicine, patent law and civil liberty.
The portion of the trade agreement released by WikiLeaks is titled “Intellectual Property Rights Chapter” and details plans for implementing a transnational “enforcement regime” to deal with Intellectual Property, or IP, rights. The document reveals that TPP negotiators are seeking to expand the reach of intellectual property rights, while shrinking consumer rights and safeguards.
“Since the beginning of the TPP negotiations, the process of drafting and negotiating the treaty’s chapters has been shrouded in an unprecedented level of secrecy,” Wikileaks said in a statement on the release of the TPP draft. “Access to drafts of the TPP chapters is shielded from the general public. Members of the US Congress are only able to view selected portions of treaty-related documents in highly restrictive conditions and under strict supervision. It has been previously revealed that only three individuals in each TPP nation have access to the full text of the agreement, while 600 ’trade advisers’ — lobbyists guarding the interests of large US corporations such as Chevron, Halliburton, Monsanto and Walmart — are granted privileged access to crucial sections of the treaty text.”
The leaked portion of the treaty reveals that involved nations — including the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei — are seeking to “reduce impediments to trade and investment by promoting deeper economic integration through effective and adequate creation, utilization, protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, taking into account the different levels of economic development and capacity as well as differences in national legal systems.”
The TPP negotiators will accomplish the goal — which essentially amounts to emboldening copyright and patent protections for multinational corporations — by including provisions in the treaty that mirror the abandoned Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) legislation that died in the United States following public outcry.
An analysis of the leaked documents by Knowledge Ecology International notes: “The U.S. proposals are sometimes more restrictive than U.S. laws, and when consistent, are designed to lock-in the most anti-consumer features. On top of everything else, the U.S. proposals would create new global legal norms that would allow foreign governments and private investors to bring legal actions and win huge damages, if TPP member countries does not embrace anti-consumer practices.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said that the secret treaty, developed solely by government and corporate interests, is bad for just about anyone who would fall under its jurisdiction.
“If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs,” Assange said.
The Barack Obama Administration has said that it would like to fast-track the treaty and sign the agreement by early 2014.
This infographic from the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains more about TPP: