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Commentary: 2014: A Risky Year in Geopolitics? | The National Interest

Commentary: 2014: A Risky Year in Geopolitics? | The National Interest.

What are the biggest political risks for 2014?

There are plenty of potential crises to keep us up at night in 2014. There are tensions between China and Japan in the East China Sea and elite-level executions in North Korea. Violence continues to worsen in the Middle East with a resurgence of a more localized Al Qaeda, a deteriorating security environment in Iraq, and 2014’s biggest geopolitical pivot point: the make-or-break Iran nuclear agreement. If the P5+1 and Iran strike a deal, it would be a huge boon for the Obama administration, but it would leave Iran economically emboldened and looking to backstop Shia initiatives across the region, putting it even more at odds with Saudi Arabia. A deal is, on balance, more likely than not. But if it falls through, it means a spike in oil prices, in addition to the likelihood that Israel strikes Iran before it can sprint to nuclear-breakout capacity. All of these geopolitical concerns are front and center for the coming year.

But above all, two essential questions best categorize the major political risks of 2014. For many of the world’s predominant emerging markets, it’s an internally focused question: How will key developing countries adapt to upcoming elections or implement ambitious agendas—and what does it mean for their behavior beyond their borders? For the United States, the question is externally focused. The international community perceives America’s foreign-policy behavior as increasingly unpredictable. Is the United States disengaging internationally? How will policymakers define the role that the US should play in the world? Much depends on these concerns, as America’s relationships with its allies become increasingly fraught.

When you add these two questions to the more conventional geopolitical security uncertainties, there is one clear answer: the erosion of global leadership and coordination will become more apparent and pronounced in 2014.

How will emerging markets respond to internal challenges?

This year, we will see domestic distractions in emerging markets, from election cycles to unprecedented reform agendas; do not expect them to play a significant role internationally that does not cohere with their more pressing priorities at home. We are in the midst of a new era of political challenges for emerging markets, as slowing growth, sputtering economic models, and rising demands from newly enfranchised middle classes create heightened uncertainty. As recent protests in Brazil, Turkey, Thailand, Colombia, Ukraine and Russia have shown, new middle classes have new demands—and are willing to take to the streets if they go unmet.

It is in this context that six of the world’s largest emerging markets—Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey—will hold national elections in 2014. In all six countries, the incumbent party will have ruled for a decade or more, but since coming to power, few of them will have faced an electoral cycle quite like this. Political, social, and economic dynamics in each of these countries vary immensely, but elections raise the risk of prevote populist policymaking in all of them. As emerging-market growth wanes, many of these countries need to implement economic reforms in order to enhance productivity and continue enriching their citizens. But as elections loom, the fears of politicians grow, and substantive reform of pensions, privatization, labor markets, and taxation will stall. Nor will the outlook improve substantially post-elections. We are likely to see second mandates of weaker leaderships—a political environment that is by no means ideal for big-bang reforms.

While these six emerging markets are the most important players for the global economic community, the emerging market elections story extends much further. A total of forty-four democratic emerging-market countries accounting for 36 percent of the world’s population will hold national elections this year. Growing middle classes across the emerging market space are expecting more and better services precisely as governments’ capacity to deliver (economically and politically) is diminishing. That leaves emerging market governments with their hands full at home.

Among emerging markets, Turkey is especially vulnerable in 2014. The country faces spillover effects from the civil war in Syria and a re-emergence of the Kurdish insurgency. More worryingly, Prime Minister Erdogan’s increasingly aggressive behavior is a huge variable at a time when he is likely to become president. Expect uncertainty and conflict over the division of powers between him and the prime minister.

China, by far the most important emerging market in the world, certainly does not face electoral pressure; in fact, the new leadership under Xi Jinping has consolidated power quickly and efficiently since the leadership transition in late 2012. But China will face demands from its constituents and domestic distractions all the same, as its economy is now undergoing a dramatic shift. The new leadership has embraced far-reaching reform to a greater degree over president Xi Jinping’s first year than we’ve seen in the past two decades. Beijing will prioritize reform over more rapid economic growth in 2014, likely focusing on reforms that address public concerns to bolster its political strength and popular legitimacy. Expect social-policy reform at the forefront, with energy policy as another priority. We could also see financial reform moving more quickly than current consensus would indicate.

These reforms constitute a huge potential positive for China’s investment climate and potential integration into the world economy. Beijing must, however, tread carefully: there are many dangerous moving pieces attached to the reform agenda. There will be losers in the reform process as industries go out of business, officials get purged, and firms come under heavy regulatory scrutiny. If reforms move too quickly, they could destabilize the ruling party from within, as these key stakeholders push back to protect their vested interests. To protect against public and bureaucratic backlash, the leadership is using anti-corruption and reeducation efforts to intimidate reform opponents within the party while using new technologies to mitigate public dissent. But if the reforms fail or are widely perceived to be moving too slowly, political instability and popular protest could grow. That is only magnified by the fact that Beijing is doing this in the context of a fundamentally changed information environment, where the proliferation of information leaves the ruling party more beholden to the demands of its citizens—and where rapid shifts in popular sentiment can arise quickly and unexpectedly. Missteps could undermine the broader reform process and the leadership itself.

If— or perhaps, when— there are bumps in the road, Beijing will try to divert public anger toward foreign targets. Xi Jinping’s first substantial foreign-policy move was to announce an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea; that caters to widespread anti-Japanese sentiment within China. Should trouble emerge domestically, the Xi government might be willing to deflect attention by playing up this antagonism. On the other hand, in the longer run, if China implements its reform agenda successfully, it could empower the regime to project its regional influence still further.

Russia is one emerging market where, under President Putin’s rule, there is a great willingness to intervene on the international stage—but often in unpredictable ways. Putin remains the single most powerful individual in the world, but two worrying trends are converging: his popularity has slipped, and after a decade of rising expectations, Russia’s economy is stagnating. This makes Russia under Putin, a leader unusually capable of getting big things done quickly, far less predictable at home and abroad.

Is the United States disengaging internationally?

As Putin injects uncertainty by intervening abroad, the United States is doing so as well—but predominantly by disengaging.

Some of this decline in consistent US foreign-policy engagement is determined by structural international changesFirst, there are too many increasingly influential countries that need to be at the table for a negotiation to have global impact, making it more difficult to coordinate effectively at the multilateral level. On top of this, a distracted German-led Europe is focusing inward on economic prerogatives of repairing the eurozone and restoring competitiveness; for foreign-policy engagement, the United States would much prefer the more geopolitically aligned UK and France driving European affairs. Emerging markets, particularly Russia and China, are more willing to challenge US preferences abroad.

Some of this new American foreign policy tack derives from tectonic shifts in the US domestic picture. In the 2012 election, just 5 percent of voters ranked foreign policy as their priority, and widening income inequality is persuading many Americans that they do not share the benefits of US engagement abroad. With a reactive, risk-averse approach to foreign policy along with a weaker second-term foreign-policy team, the Obama administration’s preferences and recent actions have magnified the issue considerably. The White House has made a handful of important missteps in the last year, even if many were at least partially the product of circumstance. The NSA scandal in the wake of the Snowden revelations has undermined the United States around the world. The need for attention at home amidst congressional infighting, a government shutdown, and the Obamacare rollout fiasco has come with significant foreign-policy opportunity cost—perhaps most importantly, Obama’s need to miss the APEC summit. Obama’s vacillation on whether to strike Syria undermined US credibility, and when the chance for a chemical-weapons agreement arose (thanks to an internationally engaged Vladimir Putin…), Obama jumped at the chance to take the deal and chalk it up as a justification for Washington remaining a spectator to the broader civil war.

Add all of these factors together and it seems that a perfect storm of US foreign policy decline is brewing. A poorly defined, more risk-averse US role in the world has allies frustrated with and uncertain about Washington’s longstanding policy preferences and commitments. They are actively questioning some American security guarantees and worrying about Washington’s reluctance to deploy military, economic, and diplomatic capital.

This new period of uncertainty for American foreign policy will impact US relations with countries around the world—but by no means equally. Despite their consternation, America’s closest allies don’t have viable alternatives. Mexico and Canada are far too economically integrated with the US to effectively hedge the relationship with outreach to other major powers. For Japan, Israel and the UK—the United States’ preeminent ally in each of their respective regions—the same is true strategically. As a result, they are particularly exposed in an increasingly leaderless world order.

That’s not the case, though, for the US’s second-tier allies, who have flexibility in structuring their strategic partnerships. This a much larger group, including Germany, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Brazil, and Indonesia. All have governments that consider it unwise to bet too fully on the US, and they are preparing to hedge their position by shifting their international orientation accordingly.

The prime example is the deterioration in US-Saudi relations. In recent months, the Saudi leadership has rejected a seat on the UN Security Council and penned forceful op-eds in Western publications, explaining Saudi consternation with American policy in the Middle East—the Iran nuclear deal in particular—and the need for Saudi Arabia to “go it alone.” The Brazilians and Germans have been particularly vocal in their opposition to NSA practices in the wake of the discovery that their leaders’ personal emails had been monitored by US intelligence.

The implications of these shifting alliances will be stark. US corporations are primed for new challenges. Post-Snowden, American firms that rely on collecting or sharing information, such as telecoms, banks and credit-card companies, may encounter a more hostile regulatory environment in countries like France, Germany and Brazil. US defense companies selling into countries such as Turkey and the Gulf states could also find themselves on the losing end of a tilt away from the United States. And expect Washington’s multilateral agenda to suffer, as “coalitions of the willing” become harder to establish and important trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership lose some momentum. Confusion over US commitments will complicate choices for countries balancing security and economic interests between the US and China; some Asian governments may align more closely with Beijing. And as the US is no longer perceived as a credible driver of the single global marketplace, a weakening of international standards is likely in the years to come. We might see faster fragmentation of the Internet, more disjointed financial regulation, a weaker NATO, and an even more fragmented global environment.

But despite its waning foreign-policy engagement, the US is not in economic decline.Investors continue to look past America’s many challenges and bet heavily on the US economy.In fact, driven by an energy revolution, game-changing technologies in diverse sectors, favorable demographics, and strong underlying political and social stability, the American economic story remains among the most dynamic and exciting in the world.The United States may be hamstrung by issues such as its yawning gap between rich and poor and its increasingly ineffectual secondary-education system, but for now at least, corporate investment and international support for the US dollar remain robust. So despite Washington’s inconsistencies on the international stage, America’s allies—and the international community—are set to struggle with it most.

In 2014, as emerging markets look inward and American foreign policy goes wayward, the only certainty is that international coordination is eroding. That will generate a more volatile global landscape and unforeseen crises.

Ian Bremmer is the president of the Eurasia Group, global research professor at New York University and a contributing editor at The National Interest.

Image: Flickr/Beverly Goodwin. CC BY 2.0.

Why Canada Should Demand Sustainable Trade Practices From Its Partners | David R. Miller

Why Canada Should Demand Sustainable Trade Practices From Its Partners | David R. Miller.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been described by negotiation countries as one of the most ambitious 21st century trade agreements. However, today’s leak of the agreement’s draft environment chapter reveals deeply concerning limits to that ambition. And it is these limits that could significantly undermine the sustainable use of the world’s resources as well as the long-term economic benefits of trade.

For nearly four years, a dozen nations including Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and a number of Pacific Rim countries have been quietly negotiating this deal. Last fall, WWF along with 23 other environmental organizations called for the inclusion of a number of critical measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of the world’s seafood and timber, and to curb the illegal trade of wildlife. Even though legally enforceable environmental provisions are a mandatory part of all U.S. trade agreements, that’s precisely where the leaked chapter (penned, it turns out, by Canada) fails. In short, the environmental provisions have no teeth.

The global environmental issues cited by WWF and others are implicit in this trade agreement. The countries included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership represent about one-quarter of the world’s global seafood catch (Canada is both a major exporter and importer of seafood). They account for 34 per cent of world’s timber and pulp production. And they include some of the globe’s largest consumers of illegal wildlife products. In other words, this agreement represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to significantly address the overfishing of our oceans, the devastation of our forests, and the illegal poaching and trafficking that is driving rhinos, elephants, sharks and other species to the brink of extinction.

That’s what’s slipping through our fingers here. And the implications are far-ranging. Unsustainable resource trade weakens the ability of law-abiding businesses to compete, and threatens jobs in countries who follow the rules. Take “pirate” fishing for example (fishing that’s illegal, unregulated, and unreported). This global epidemic accounts for about 20 per cent of the world’s seafood catch, costing the industry as much as $23 billion per year. It’s also a major driver of overfishing, which includes unsustainable shark finning.

Canada has actually become an international leader in the fight against “pirate” fishing. Shouldn’t we be demanding that same level of leadership from others? Shouldn’t we be at the table pushing for an agreement that makes strong, legally-binding environmental legislation the foundation for a prosperous and sustainable global economy? Doesn’t that speak both to our historic role in international negotiations as well as to our values as Canadians?

Sadly, today’s leaked report shows us doing the opposite: standing in the way of proposals for stronger environmental enforcements. That, too, is a very disappointing missed opportunity — for Canada, for the world, and for our country’s our place in it.

Follow David R. Miller on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@iamdavidmiller

Activist Post: Net Neutrality Dies: Is the Free and Open Internet Over or Just Beginning?

Activist Post: Net Neutrality Dies: Is the Free and Open Internet Over or Just Beginning?.

Derrick Broze
Activist Post

It seems that while internet activists and advocates of the free flow of information have been focused on the dangerous and looming Trans-Pacific Partnership, the debate for Net Neutrality has been absent from recent memory. The TPP has the potential to completely upend life as we know it and does warrant a great bit of your attention. However, the persistent debate of Net Neutrality rules has now been brought back front and center.

On Tuesday the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against rules originally adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2010. The rules, known as Net Neutrality, were designed to protect the openness of the internet. The 2-1 decision means the FCC created rules do not apply to broadband services such as Comcast and Verizon, the two companies behind the lawsuit.

The D.C. Circuit decided that the FCC had classified broadband services differently than it does traditional telecommunications companies and could not hold broadband services to the same standard. The FCC used the concept of “common carriage” when developing the basis of the Net Neutrality rules. The concept hinges on the idea that common pathways (the internet, waterways, roads) should be open to all. A business can charge for services using such pathways but they cannot discriminate.

With the internet this means that before Tuesday companies could not discriminate traffic based on a tier system, or payment of a fee. The idea was that the internet infrastructure that provides all internet content should be open to anyone. The end of the rules means that large corporations with deep pocket books could pay broadband providers extra cash to ensure their sites and services stream in excellent quality while viewers of smaller sites could suffer from a lower quality internet experience.

It doesn’t take long to see how this could affect internet censorship. Smaller journalist outfits, or independent entrepreneurial ventures could be blocked from the internet by being unable to pay fees that Verizon, Time Warner or Comcast may eventually impose. There are also fears that the United States government’s close relationship to certain corporations could lead to quality experiences of some sites and the slow elimination of websites critical of the government and its policies.

How did we get here?

In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that broadband services should not be classified in the same manner as telecom services. The idea being that broadband providers’ infrastructure is not considered a public right and not regulated under the concept of common carrier. Based on that decision the appeals court rejected the FCC position that broadband services fall under Net Neutrality rules.

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The FCC put in place official rules for Net Neutrality after a failed attempt to fine Comcast based on Net Neutrality principles, but not official rules, that were in place in 2009. Comcast had slowed traffic from the torrent downloading service BitTorrent in order to manage traffic and limit downloads. In April 2010 the same D.C. court ruled that the FCC had no authority to enforce regulations on Internet providers. The case dealt with what many fear will happen in the coming age of tiered internet services.

Soon after, the FCC created official Net Neutrality rules. It was these new rules that Tuesday’s decision concluded, once again, that the FCC does not have the authority to regulate broadband services under. So what are the rules of Net Neutrality and how do they affect you?

Net Neutrality

The first of three rules required broadband companies to remain open and transparent to customers about how they handle traffic on their systems.

The second rule is designed to keep broadband services from blocking legal content on their networks.

The third rule, and the one which does not apply to broadband services any longer, prevents “unreasonable” discrimination against traffic.

It is important to note that the court did reject a claim by Verizon that Congress did not give the FCC jurisdiction over internet access at all. The court referenced section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as giving the FCC authority over the internet. This means that the Commission is free to set rules for standard internet traffic but at this point broadband services are not under their jurisdiction. This goes for all broadband providers except Comcast. In the company’s 2011 merger with NBC they agreed to follow the FCC’s Open Internet Rules until 2018.

The End of the Internet or an Opportunity for Creation?

So although this battle is far from over we could begin to see the internet offered to customers at various prices for differing quality, speed, and content. The usual knee jerk reaction to this type of action or inaction by the government is to call for more regulation. Corporations continue to have a growing influence in our lives; from the food we eat, to the clothes we buy and the way we use the internet. It is frightening to think that the free and open internet we have grown to love could be stripped away. But, perhaps, this competition between the corporatist enslavement of our freedoms should be seen for what it truly is: a competition between free, intelligent, creative people and monopolistic, mechanical, corporate governance.

Instead of expecting the United States government of 2014 to hear our cries and pull back the tyranny, we should see this as an opportunity to create new ways of using the infrastructure of the internet and broadband services. Sure, the mainstream World Wide Web may be completely monitored and eventually censored, dull, and irrelevant, but that does not mean innovation will cease. With the open source technological revolution growing daily it is likely that some genius out there has already created the answer to our problems.

Ideas like alternative DNS server projects such as the Open Nic project, mesh networks, the Darknet, and more will stretch the boundaries of what the internet can be. These ideas will be the ones that eliminate the effectiveness of any government regulation anyways. They will also render any silly corporate takeover of communications largely pointless.

Now of course, those who choose to remain in the corporate mainstream culture will be left with the dry, carbon copy versions of music, clothes, technology and yes, the internet. But once the clamping down on individual expression and creation reaches a breaking point the population will seek a better alternative. With the growth of peer-to-peer, open source technology it is only a matter of time before the internet expands into a number of different, competing webs of information.

So spread the word about the looming dangers of censorship and internet favoritism, but don’t forget to remind others that information longs to be free. It is inevitable that governments and their corporate partners will work together to limit freedoms. It is also inevitable that the people will tire of such arrangements, create alternatives, and find ways to be even more free. If you want to keep the free and open internet – fight for it. Create it. Build it.

Sources:

Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist, community activist, gardener and promoter from Houston, Texas. He is the co-founder of The Houston Free Thinkers, and co-host of Free Thinker Radio. Broze also hosts and produces a weekly podcast under the name the Conscious Resistance Live. His writing can be found on TheConsciousResistance.com and at ActivistPost.com.

Activist Post: No-Brainer Course In Derailing The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Activist Post: No-Brainer Course In Derailing The Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Heather Callaghan
Activist Post

If you don’t know what it is yet – that means it’s working. The secrecy, that is. But once Pandora’s Box is opened, there’s no putting anything back. It will go down in history as one of the worst, oppressive plagues to saturate the planet.

Like Spider Man trying to stop a train from going over with nothing but his strength and shooting threads; we are going to need all the Web we can get to stop the fast-tracking Trans-Pacific Partnership from running over us. Perhaps more aptly, it is a tangled web we’ll be left trapped in as prey if we do nothing.

Here’s a crash-course and the easiest approach – all guesswork removed. But first, here’s a sampling of what you can kiss goodbye if this mammoth piece of legislation goes through…

What’s left of our jobs, food safety, Internet freedom, natural medicine, small farming, choice in medicine, financial regulation, privacy and more. Basically, all your rights. It permeates every area of your life, it’s been ramrodded through the Senate, and the media is not saying anything. It grants the likes of Monsanto, Wall Street and other huge entities full reign with immunity.

Kiss any last American sovereignty goodbye and say hello to your new global crypto-corpocracy complete with international tribunals and the end of domestic law – from your newly refurbished prison cell, of course. After all, you clicked on the wrong Internet link! And your ISP was watching and reported you. In the near future, this article could be enough to jail me, ban my whole family from the Internet, have computers seized and delete the website. No more videos that piece other clips together, or anything that hints at “infringement,” no more fair use, so no more non-corporate news.

It’s been shrouded in secrecy, especially from the People and Congress, planned behind closed doors for years, and proponents are searching for sponsors to have the President push it through now that Congress is back from recess.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership n. 1. A “free trade” agreement that would set rules on non-trade matters such as food safety, internet freedom, medicine costs, financial regulation, and the environment. 2. A binding international governance system that would require the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and any other country that signs on to conform their domestic policies to its rules. 3. A secret trade negotiation that has included over 600 official corporate “trade advisors” while hiding the text from Members of Congress, governors, state legislators, the press, civil society, and the public.

Here’s your crash course link on the TPP. You’ll be ready for take-off in no time. They’ve made it that simple:

Expose the TPP

After being mind-blown and catching your breath, you can do the absolute easiest thing there is to do by using Twitter with the hashtag #NOFastTrackTPP (but wait, there’s more).

Don’t use social media? No problem, scroll down. For social media users, here are the easiest things you can do, besides sharing memes and links on Facebook. Share things to Reddit andStumbleUpon. Everyone should call their reps (below).

See the Twitter storm event – still going. Pull any memes – share. Only use this hashtag for social media:  #NOFastTrackTPP. Using other hashtags and adding more will split the trends.

Next, Tweet your little heart out to your reps and others. Easily find them by clicking the “Discover” button and typing “congressman” in the search. All their Twitter names appear. Find celebrities, they often re-tweet. Example: @repfitzpatrick or @RepBera

Example Tweet:

@RepBera NO to Fast Track Authority and TPP, or we will not re-elect!! ‪#‎NoFastTrackTPP‬

Here’s another: “Do NOT sponsor FastTrack! Vote NO on TPP! ‪#‎NoFastTrackTPP‬”

Some reps have stood against the TPP, so first you might want to see this:

Spank or Thank?

– OR –

Use a general message for everyone: “I will NEVER support the Trans-Pacific Partnership#NOFastTrackTPP”

Want to jump into the Twitter storm? Easy. Sign up at Twitter, it runs you through a few-second tour and you can figure out the rest, see Help, or ask friends. Use the hashtag #NOFastTrackTPP on Facebook statuses.

Non-Social Media Users:

Find all your representatives’ info/forms in one-click. Just click on your state:
Contacting the Congress

Or use this:
Call President Obama: 202-456-6213
Call your Representative: 202-225-3121
or Toll Free (877) 762-8762

E A S Y  S C R I P T:

(Breathe and talk slowly. You will do just fine. Be polite and confident.)

“Hi, this is (your full name). I am a constituent of Rep/Senator (name). I live in (name of city). I am calling to request that Rep/Sen (name) vote NO on Fast Track Authority. It is important to me that Congress follows the Constitutional directive to negotiate international trade and that all trade agreements are given full consideration, debate and amendments as needed.

Do you know Rep/Sen (name) position on Fast Track Authority? Will he/she vote Yes or No? (wait for an answer)

Do you know Rep/Sen (name) position on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement? Will he/she vote Yes or No? (wait for an answer)

(regardless of their response, just continue)

Once again, I am requesting that Rep/Sen (name) vote NO on Fast Track Authority and NO on the TPP! Please be sure he/she gets my message. Thank you.”

Go to the Crash-Course site and print off PDFs to share. Actually, that whole website is designed to help you take action, online and off. You can still share the hashtag in any way you choose – it gets the point across fast.

URGENT:

If you can target these two reps, you could stop the fast-track today:

1) MIKE QUIGLY (IL-05)
D.C. 202-225-4061
District: (773) 267-5926
Twitter: @RepMikeQuigley
https://www.facebook.com/repmikequigley

2) GREG MEEKS (NY-05)
D.C. (202) 225-3461
District: 347-230-4032 & 718-725-6000
Twitter: Gregory Meeks
https://www.facebook.com/gregorymeeksny05

Lastly, if you have done something, no matter how small to derail the TPP fast track – THANK YOU!!

Special thanks also to Andrew Pontbriand, Emily Laincz and Nick Bernabe for their tireless organizing, efforts and information  – and to all those who joined them. Without them, this article wouldn’t be – nor will it with the TPP!

The smallest action is bigger than the greatest intention.

 

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at NaturalBlaze.com and ActivistPost.com. Like at Facebook.

Recent posts by Heather Callaghan:

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Canada Caving On Controversial Issues?

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Canada Caving On Controversial Issues?.

The federal government is staying quiet on reports it has caved to U.S. demands on intellectual property and copyright issues in a new Pacific trade deal currently under negotiation, saying only that talks are ongoing.

Citing a report from the Washington Trade Daily, the Council of Canadians saysCanada has backed off its resistance to “outrageous” new intellectual property rights the U.S. wants to see included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

WikiLeaks, which released a draft copy of the IP chapter of the deal last month, described it as having “far-reaching implications for individual rights and civil liberties.”

Critics of the deal say if the U.S. gets its way, the result could be the criminalization of small-scale copyright infringement and households being disconnected from the internet under laws that punish unauthorized downloading. Internet providers would be forced to do more monitoring of their subscribers, and it would be easier for governments to remove websites, critics say.

Additionally, proposed extensions to drug patents and copyright terms would mean more expensive drugs and other products, critics say.

Australia, New Zealand and Canada, among others, dropped their objections to the high-standard disciplines in intellectual property and came on board by agreeing to the modified text,” the Council of Canadians quoted the Trade Daily as saying.

“Effectively, there is consensus on the intellectual property dossier except for one developing country.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade did not address the claims directly, but told HuffPost Canada that “the IP chapter is still under negotiation and Canada continues to advance its interests at the negotiating table.”

Canada “is committed to ensuring that its intellectual property regime balances the interests of both rightholders and users,” a DFAIT spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Documents released by WikiLeaks last month showed Canada had been in the majority of negotiating countries in resisting the IP provisions the U.S. wants. It’s unclear whether Canada’s reported change of stance, along with the shift by other countries, now gives the U.S. the muscle to make the IP provisions part of the final agreement. Negotiations continue under a veil of secrecy, with the latest round wrapping up in Singapore last week.

Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew called on the federal government to release the proposed text of the TPP to the public.

“This is a transparent effort to find more profits for U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies by undermining other countries’ efforts to keep health costs down,” he said.

“People have a right to see what other ridiculous trade-offs are happening in the TPP negotiations. The Harper government, and all TPP countries, owe it to everyone to make the full text public now.”

Along with Canada and the U.S., the countries negotiating the TPP are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

A trade area among those countries would have a population of nearly 800 million and would represent more than 38 per cent of the world economy.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Chapter Released By WikiLeaks

Trans-Pacific Partnership Chapter Released By WikiLeaks.

trans pacific partnership

A trade agreement Canada intends to sign will have “far-reaching implications for individual rights and civil liberties,” WikiLeaks says.

The group known around the world for publishing state secrets has released a draft chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal being negotiated under what it calls an “unprecedented level of secrecy.” Critics say the agreement favours corporate interests over consumers.

The leaked intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement proposes sweeping reforms including to pharmaceuticals, publishers, patents, copyrights, trademarks, civil liberties and liability of internet service providers.

“If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons,” WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange, said in a press release.

“If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

Canada joined TPP negotiations along with Mexico last October. It also includes other Pacific Rim countries Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam but not China. The member countries together represent a market of 792 million people and a GDP of $27.5 trillion, or 40 per cent of the world economy.

Internet freedom organizations, including Canada’s Openmedia.ca, have criticized the TPP’s intellectual property provisions, saying proposals in the agreement would restrict innovation and force internet service providers to police copyright.

WikiLeaks says provisions in the deal would create “supranational” courts that could override member nations’ judicial systems. The courts “have no human rights safeguards,” WikiLeaks stated.

The document contains provisions as well as proposed amendments and opposition from the various countries involved. Canada, for the most part, appears to stand in the majority view on many topics and against many U.S. demands, which were often supported by Australia or Japan.

Canada appears to take a more liberal stance on many issues than its southern neighbour. It supported the objectives of the agreement, which the U.S. and Japan opposed, that include maintaining “a balance between the rights of intellectual property holders and the legitimate interests of users and the community in subject matter protected by intellectual property.”

“From a Canadian perspective, there is good news and bad news,” Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, wrote on his blog Wednesday morning.

“The good news is that Canada is pushing back against many U.S. demands by promoting provisions that are consistent with current Canadian law … The bad news is that the U.S. — often joined by Australia — is demanding that Canada roll back its recent copyright reform legislation with a long list of draconian proposals.”

Canada also proposed that the chapter’s provisions be compatible with other multilateral treaties including the World Trade Organization and World Health Organization, “especially with regards to measures aimed at protecting public health and protecting equal access to knowledge and food.” Mexico and the U.S. objected.

Meanwhile, the U.S and Australia added an amendment that would force each country to also sign onto 10 different international treaties by the time they enter the TPP. Canada and nine other nations opposed.

WikiLeaks says many of the surveillance and enforcement provisions in the agreement include stringent mechanisms proposed in the controversial U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act and Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

Enforcement measures for policing rights proposed in the document include supranational tribunals, to which national courts would be expected to defer.

The leak of what is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the highly secretive TPP comes ahead of the next round of negotiations in Salt Lake City, Utah from Nov. 19 to 24.

SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, was a proposed U.S. law that would have allowed the government to create a “blacklist” of copyright-infringing websites it could then block. Critics complained the government would be allowed to censor the internet without judicial oversight.

ACTA, or the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a stalled international pact that would greatly increase the power of international bodies to enforce copyright laws. Critics feared the pact would force governments to pass laws that would ban internet users from the web if they were found to be infringing copyright.

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Canadian MPs Have No Access To Drafts U.S. Pols Can See, NDP Says

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Canadian MPs Have No Access To Drafts U.S. Pols Can See, NDP Says.

 

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