TPP Signed and Sealed

by Mike on March 23, 2016

in News

The Trans-Pacific Partnership was signed on February 4th this year in Auckland, New Zealand. This trade agreement, perhaps the biggest secret and most controversial one ever made, binds 12 countries that together carry over 40% of the world’s economy. The TPP, denounced by privacy advocates and independent organizations for its secretiveness and threat to freedoms, has only to be ratified by these signatories to come into effect. This may not be completed until the end of this year, but we have only a loss of privacy and security to look forward to.

Arguments Against

The TPP is a document of 16,000 pages that details the new trade agreements between the United States, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Japan, Malaysia, Chile, and Peru. It is supposed to improve trade relations among these countries, but there are several aspects of the agreement that are more than a little distasteful. One major issue revolves around the conditions penned in the agreement for intellectual property rights. Any partner country that does not have acceptable copyright laws will have to change them to conform to US laws. This means criminal penalties for violations, among other things.

Privacy advocates are also worried that the TPP will lead to vague intellectual property laws because of the way the agreement is worded. After analyzing the full text of the agreement when it was released last November, they found for instance that the probable ambiguities could cause problems for people uploading video and audio files online. Wikipedia, which until now has been able to stay out of these types of debates, has made a statement against the TPP because of this issue. The company stated in a blog post that the agreement damages the public domain and prevents people from sharing free knowledge. This will be very damaging to the growth of many countries whose citizens depend much on this free sharing in the public domain. Wikipedia calls for clear copyright exceptions and safe harbor for intermediaries.

Because of the probability that hazy and harsh copyright laws being enacted in several countries will result from the TPP, other individuals are going to be affected as well. Device owners, website administrators, and network operators are all going to face issues. These new intellectual property laws are expected to wrest control of personal devices away from their owners. Websites and networks will also not be allowed to benefit from proper security because of resulting changes in copyright related source code agreements. It is basically going to be a nightmare for the Internet.

Awaiting Ratification

Some sources say that the ratification process could take up to two years, but others say that it will be done in some countries by the end of this year. The US is holding elections this year, so they will understandably take longer than others to formally approve or reject the TPP. There is a chance that the agreement could be rejected, but there is not much hope for this. The TPP was in the works for 5 years, and it has not faced any significant resistance by the government. As such, we can expect the TPP to come into full force two months after each country has completed its ratification procedures. There’s really no telling how long this will take, but we do know that it looks inevitable.

Even if one or even a few countries decide to listen to the cries of the people and fail to ratify the agreement, the partners only need 6 countries to agree. If 6 of the partners who control 85% or more of the combined GDPs of the 12 signatories get the TPP ratified within 2 years of the signing, or by February 4, 2018, then the TPP still goes into effect. Because of this 85% rule, everyone is looking to the US and Japan, who together hold almost 80% of the total GDP of the original 12. If they both ratify, then they won’t need much else for the TPP to come into force. But if one of them does not sign, then the TPP won’t make the cut. We know of course that the US is all for the agreement, but the November elections could throw a monkey wrench into the previous administration’s plans. Mitch McConnell, US Senate Majority Leader, said that because most of the Presidentiables are against the TPP, any discussion about it should be put off until after the elections. We don’t want to get too excited about what an anti-TPP US president could mean because the agreement could still be ratified despite his leanings.

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