The Internet Association’s support of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership came slowly and conditionally—but not necessarily with the support of all of its members. Nevertheless, the association sees the pact as supportive of what it calls “an essential American export”: the internet.
Like many tech groups, the Internet Association (IA) has thrown its support behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But it only did so this week, long after other industry groups had already done so.
So what convinced the association to stop holding out? Ultimately, the group—which represents both internet giants and smaller sharing-economy companies—felt that the trade pact (unlike similar deals in the past) did right by the internet, and that ultimately led to IA’s support.
“The Internet industry is encouraged that the TPP recognizes the Internet as an essential American export, and supports the agreement’s passage,” IA President and CEO Michael Beckerman said in a news release this week. “Historically, pro-Internet policies have been absent from trade agreements, which is why the TPP is an important step forward for the Internet sector that accounts for 6 percent of the GDP and nearly 3 million American jobs.”
The group’s hesitancy to make its decision on the partnership may have had something to do with some of the larger questions raised by the trade deal, which critics have suggested takes a draconian approach to intellectual property issues and was largely decided upon in a process that wasn’t transparent.
Beckerman tempered his comments by adding that “it will be critical that the TPP is implemented in a way that supports the Internet economy.”
Other GRoups Speak Up
The decision to support, however measured, was met critically by some.
Soon after the association’s comments on the partnership, which still faces an uphill ratification battle in Congress, at least two prominent internet advocacy groups, Fight for the Future and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, took critical stances against IA’s support.
Reddit, an IA member, also questioned the support for the deal, though the social network emphasized its support for the association generally:
Reddit Inc. values our membership with @InternetAssn, but do not support TPP. We're committed to policy that encourages user empowerment.
— reddit (@reddit) March 31, 2016
Fight for the Future’s Evan Greer, whose group has emerged as one of the agreement’s loudest critics, called on IA members to publicly distance themselves from the group’s TPP stance.
“The TPP exports the worst parts of the United States’ broken copyright system without ensuring protections for freedom of expression, innovation, and human rights,” Greer, the group’s campaign director, said in a news release. “It’s great for incumbent monopolies, but terrible for individual Internet users, startups, and the tech community as a whole.”
Not everyone was a critic of the association’s stance on the trade pact, however. The Business Roundtable’s Trade Benefits America coalition, an advocate for fast-tracking the TPP, spoke in support of the association’s stance on Twitter.