Maui wowie: final round of TPP negotiations beginning in Hawaii

Posted by Meghan Sali on Mon, 07/27/2015 - 14:43

Photo by Philippe Leroyer via Flickr CC

We’ve been hearing it repeated again and again over the previous weeks and months: it’s coming to a close, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is in its ‘endgame’. And as negotiators and Trade Ministers meet in Maui this week, groups across the globe are making sure opposition continues to grow louder and more visible.

Late last month, US Congress approved Fast Track legislation, which was vaunted as a ‘key procedural hurdle’ that had to be conquered before the 12 nations negotiating the mammoth agreement would be able to move forward and lock the specifics in place.

But heading into what the US Trade Representative wants us and its partners to believe is the final round, there is still much to be discussed.

In fact, the agreement appears more contentious than ever. Over the past weeks, we’ve seen many of the issues of concern to opponents of the TPP, for various reasons, come to the fore. Our own misgivings with the Intellectual Property Chapter (read: copyright terms, intermediary liability regimes, and infringement enforcement mechanisms) have been getting more attention than ever.

And even though it appears some of the worst proposals around takedown rules that aim to censor the Web are dissipating, the assurance that we ‘may not’ all face an unfair global censorship regime flies in the face of the fact that the negotiations are as closed and secret as ever.

We also know that if and when these negotiations are concluded, all nations party to the agreement will be faced with an all-or-nothing choice, leaving any nuanced discussions about the value of individual provisions off the table.

Would you sign your name at the bottom a secret contract that you were forbidden from reading? Of course not.

And if you find yourself starting to believe that maybe the TPP won’t do as much damage to our online lives as you originally thought, stop right there. The censorship powers that we believe remain in the agreement are unacceptable.

From longer copyright terms that diminish the value of a rich public domain, to potential criminal charges for non-commercial copyright infringement, to new restrictions on ‘trade secrets’ that aim to hamstring journalists and whistleblowers, we know that the TPP will enact regulations that dismantle our online freedoms.

In fact, now that Fast Track legislation has passed, this is our chance to have a discussion about the actual substance of the TPP without domestic US politics getting in the way. Because this discussion isn’t about the power of the US President, or about the infighting between increasingly polarized Democrats and Republicans over trade policy. It’s about the rules and regulations the agreement would enact and the secretive and unaccountable international tribunals it would establish.

Your Trade Ministers will be joining Chief Negotiators in Maui tomorrow, and they should be a part of this discussion, instead of hiding away from public view, and making vague proclamations about the agreement that has been in negotiations for over five years.

As Shawn told us on Facebook:

“This TPP appears to be based on the suppression of rights. This needs to be brought out into the open or tossed in the garbage outright.”

The good news is that nothing has been decided yet, and we still have an opportunity to appeal to decision-makers before the ‘deal’ is wrapped. Those opportunities come in many ways, including attending protests, writing letters to your local newspaper, and appealing directly to your elected representatives.

Use OpenMedia’s TPP Trade Minister tool today to do just that. If we can flood them with our message this week, we’ll all be doing our part to build a more connected digital future and push back against rules that aim to enact censorship on a global scale.