Negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have gone to extreme lengths to stop civic interest groups and the public finding out what’s being discussed at the next round of closed-door trade talks happening in Canada this month.
Originally slated to take place at the beginning of July in Vancouver, a leak from insiders this week revealed a last-minute change of venue, with the round moving from Vancouver to Ottawa - over 3,500 km away - with only a week to go before the beginning of negotiations.
A secretive international trade deal, the TPP proposes a major overhaul of provisions that allow for sharing and collaborating online, and experts have warned that if enacted the TPP will make our Internet more censored, expensive, and policed.
Thanks to leaked documents, we now know why negotiators have gone to such great lengths to keep the public in the dark about the deal: the TPP is even worse than we thought. The TPP’s IP chapter would create transnational Internet censorship courts that would override Canadian laws, and force other nations to adopt extreme U.S. copyright standards, salvaging the most egregious items from the U.S. Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), which was killed in early 2012 due to massive public outcry.
The upcoming visit to Ottawa could be the last time TPP negotiations will be hosted in Canada, and citizens are keen to be involved in the process as stakeholders in the agreement, as has happened in previous rounds of negotiations.
In an open letter to Canada’s chief negotiator, Kirsten Hillman, a group of pro-Internet civil society organizations have called for the Ottawa talks agenda to include significant opportunities for citizen and stakeholder engagement.
In the letter, the group states that, “to date there has been no public access to draft agreement texts or summaries, which severely limits meaningful input by civil society stakeholders in these important negotiations.” This point is particularly compelling, as advocacy groups have pointed out that it is ordinary Internet users who will bear the largest burden if the agreement is ratified in its present form.
Past rounds of negotiations have been marginally more open to citizen engagement. At the Auckland round in 2012, OpenMedia’s Steve Anderson delivered to decision-makers an iPad streaming comments collected from Internet users concerned about the TPP censoring the web and making access more expensive and policed.
Sadly, now that U.S. President Obama has announced that he is seeking a deal by the end of the year, we can expect the Ottawa negotiations to be even more closed off than before.
We want to make sure your voice is heard at the bargaining table, and that ordinary Internet users are protected from getting a raw deal at the hands of insider lobbyists and unaccountable U.S. conglomerates.
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