Trans-Pacific Partnership: Advocacy, Trade Groups Split on Agreement

After its long-delayed release, the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership gave tech advocacy groups much to mull over, and their response to the document hinted at their strong skepticism about the negotiation process. Intellectual property-focused trade groups, however, were more accepting of TPP.

For tech-minded advocacy groups focused on intellectual property issues, the devil is in the details when it comes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Last week the full text of the TPP was released by New Zealand’s government, revealing a document that many tech advocates consider a challenge to the internet’s freedom-minded nature.

Fight for the Future, a leading digital-rights group, was among the loudest critics of the document, which Congress has 90 days to review before President Obama can sign it.

“Now that we can read the final TPP text, it’s obvious why it was kept in total secrecy for so long: this agreement is a wishlist for powerful special interests and multinational corporations,” the group’s Evan Greer said in a news release. “The Intellectual Property chapter confirms our worst first about the TPP’s impact on our basic right to express ourselves and access information on the Internet. If U.S. Congress signs this agreement despite its blatant corruption, they’ll be signing a death warrant for the open Internet and putting the future of free speech in peril.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, noting the secrecy that drove the release of the document, went into great detail explaining the exact nature of the document and what many of the countries that signed on agreed to. In its analysis, EFF argues that the TPP seems to prioritize intellectual property protections over individuals’ privacy rights and legitimate security concerns while offering only limited solutions to genuine problems such as net neutrality, data protection, and spam control.

One element of the trade pact highlighted by EFF—that’s getting the most attention among techies—is a provision forbidding member nations from demanding the source code for software products or products with software produced by companies in fellow member countries for auditing purposes. The rule is seen by some privacy advocates as a major security problem in the making, an assessment EFF agrees with.

“This cuts off one possible avenue that, to take one example, has recently been proposed to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for addressing the dire state of security in consumer-level routers by a panel of 260 cybersecurity experts,” EFF’s Jeremy Malcolm and Maira Sutton wrote in their analysis. “This could also inhibit countries from addressing other software security incidents for which access to the source code of the software is required.”

Trade Groups More Welcoming

While tech advocacy groups have raised questions about the agreement, TPP has gotten a warmer response from trade groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America [PDF], and BSA: The Software Alliance, all of whose members have significant intellectual property concerns.

“While the TPP may not provide a precise roadmap for realizing the potential of Internet commerce, it certainly moves us in the right direction, and we salute USTR and the negotiators from other TPP parties for their vision and dedication in seeking to make copyright fit for the digital age,” Neil Turkewitz, RIAA’s executive vice president, International, wrote in a blog post.

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), which represents the broader tech industry, also seemed favorable toward the document, which it says it will analyze in depth.

“While we are still reviewing the text as published, it is clear that the agreement addresses new issues critical to the continued growth of, and innovation by, the tech sector,” ITI President and CEO Dean Garfield said in a statement. “For the first time in a trade agreement, there are provisions that prohibit restrictions on cross border data flows and local data storage, permit companies and individuals to use their choice of cybersecurity and encryption tools, and ensure the protection and enforcement of trade secrets.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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