What POTUS wouldn’t tell Ezra Klein: The scary truth about America’s new trade deal
by David Dayen, Salon
Tuesday, Feb 10, 2015 07:00 AM EST
President Obama conceded that TPP won’t live up to even a minimal labor goal when he made the rhetorical statement that organized labor wants union recognition in Vietnam or open markets in Japan, replying, “well, I can’t get that for you.” (indeed, the U.S. just dropped their effort to require Japan to open their auto markets in the deal, something that has led to the displacement of over 800,000 jobs). He says that the best possibility is to make something somewhat better than the status quo. But Obama is a terrible messenger for this message, having spent six years presiding over and passing trade agreements that fit neatly into that status quo, and of course remaining mute on the real goals of TPP: expanding corporate power over sovereign countries. And an incremental improvement won’t alter the balance of power between the U.S. and China, which Obama says is his overall goal.
But the most amazing part of Obama’s pitch on new trade deals is this statement: “Those experiences that arose over the last 20 years are not easily forgotten, and the burden of proof is on us, then, to be very transparent and explicit in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Maybe Obama didn’t realize he was talking about one of the most secretive major policy deals in recent history. Most of what we know about the TPP has come from leaked texts, with periodic bombshells like the impact on copyrights, prescription drug access and even financial regulation. The public has no access to the text, and members of Congress can only view it in the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, without staff members or experts, and without taking copies with them. The European Union recently published the entire text of a proposed U.S.-Eurozone trade agreement under negotiation, but the U.S. hasn’t come close to this level of transparency.
You’d think that, before Obama would say that his Administration must be transparent to the public in describing the benefits of free trade, he would at least share even a few lines of the text with the public. The TPP has been marked only by secrecy.
So the Administration case for the TPP is incredibly weak, based on “trust-us” arguments from those who haven’t earned that trust, who won’t discuss the real issues and who argue for transparency while hiding the true agenda. But the combination of a media that generally depicts anything with the word “trade” in it as a universal good, and a Republican Party hungry to reward their corporate funders, means that Obama’s arguments don’t have to be good to be successful.
Why We Should Rename TAFTA/TTIP As The ‘Atlantic Car Trade Agreement’
by Glyn Moody, Tech Dirt
Mon, Feb 9th 2015 8:54p
When TAFTA/TTIP was first announced, David Cameron said it would “have a greater impact than all the other trade deals on the table put together.” We were repeatedly assured that it would boost both the US and EU economies significantly. But when people started looking at the European Commission’s own projections for TTIP (pdf), they found that the reality wasn’t so impressive. Here’s the economist Dean Baker, in a post entitled “Why Is It So Acceptable to Lie to Promote Trade Deals?”
Recognizing that claims of substantial growth don’t stand up to scrutiny, boosters of TTIP in Europe have resorted to a fallback technique: anecdote. If you can’t prove something is good in general, show that it will be good for someone — anyone — and then extrapolate. Of course, that means you need to find an example of an industry that would definitely benefit from a US-EU trade agreement. An EU document on regulatory harmonization (pdf) from September 2013 gave a strong hint of which that might be.
It is striking how the anecdotal stories about the various ways in which the automotive industry would benefit from TAFTA/TTIP have become even more widespread recently. Here’s the British MP John Healey, one of the main cheerleaders for TTIP in the UK, writing in October 2014 about the “potential gains” of the agreement. Guess which example he chooses?
A recent video from the German industry association BDI extolling the virtues of TTIP for small and medium-sized companies uses two examples — one of which is cars. And here’s a video from BBC News which is all about the fact that TTIP will make it easier to sell European products in the US, using cars as its example. The main CEPR study on the economic impact of TTIP does, indeed, predict that car sales will increase. In fact, as Martin Whitlock has noted, that boost to transatlantic trade in cars contributes half of TAFTA/TTIP’s total projected uplift to economies.
Negotiators Burn Their Last Opportunity to Salvage the TPP by Caving on Copyright Term Extension
By Maira Sutton, EFF
February 4, 2015
Negotiators have been made well aware [PDF] that there is no economic rationale that can justify this extension. The fact that they have chosen to ignore what is a clear consensus among economists points to the fact that this agreement has not been driven by reason, but by the utter corruption of the process by lobbyists for multinational entertainment conglomerates, who have twisted what is notionally a trade negotiation into a special interest money-grab. After all of the trouble that public interest advocates have gone to educate negotiators about the folly of term extension, the fact that they have gone ahead anyway is the last straw for us. We’ll now be pulling out all the stops to kill this agreement dead.
The White House justifies TPP by claiming it will promote economic growth and create jobs. But the continued enclosure of culture under exorbitant copyright terms would have the opposite effect. Creators who want to build new culture out of the shared building blocks of the public domain have to wait ever longer and use more and more distant and obscure materials. We squander the promise of the Internet and digital tools promise to make it more possible to make, sell, and distribute creative works if we cut out the common resources artists and authors would use to build them.
The copyright term extension provisions in TPP embody everything that is wrong with the TPP’s digital policy rules, namely that the rules are put there for and by corporate interests that are privy to these secret negotiations, at the expense of users and the public interest. If TPP passes with these copyright terms, the agreement will be pointed to as a standard for “copyright protection”, when in fact, they are just the result of lobbying from big corporate interests who got such laws passed in the US. TPP is just the latest vehicle for copyright policy laundering, and now more than ever, we need to stop it all costs.
Go to Prison for File Sharing? That’s What Hollywood Wants in the Secret TPP Deal
By Maira Sutton, EFF
February 12, 2015
The US is pushing for a broad definition of a criminal violation of copyright, where even noncommercial activities could get people convicted of a crime. The leak also shows that Canada has opposed this definition. Canada supports language in which criminal remedies would only apply to cases where someone infringed explicitly for commercial purposes.
This distinction is crucial. Commercial infringement, where an infringer sells unauthorized copies of content for financial gain, is and should be a crime. But that’s not what the US is pushing for-it’s trying to get language passed in TPP that would make a criminal out of anyone who simply shares or otherwise makes available copyrighted works on a “commercial scale.”
As anyone who has ever had a meme go viral knows, it is very easy to distribute content on a commercial scale online, even without it being a money-making operation. That means fans who distribute subtitles to foreign movies or anime, or archivists and librarians who preserve and upload old books, videos, games, or music, could go to jail or face huge fines for their work. Someone who makes a remix film and puts it online could be under threat. Such a broad definition is ripe for abuse, and we’ve seen such abuse happen many times before.
Fair use, and other copyright exceptions and limitations frameworks like fair dealing, have been under constant attack by rightsholder groups who try to undermine and chip away at our rights as users to do things with copyrighted content. Given this reality, these criminal enforcement rules could go further to intimidate and discourage users from exercising their rights to use and share content for purposes such as parody, education, and access for the disabled.
Like the various other digital copyright enforcement provisions in TPP, the criminal enforcement language loosely reflects the United States’ DMCA but is abstracted enough that the US can pressure other nations to enact rules that are much worse for users. It’s therefore far from comforting when the White House claims that the TPP’s copyright rules would not “change US law”-we’re still exporting bad rules to other nations, while binding ourselves to obligations that may prevent US lawmakers from reforming it for the better. These rules were passed in the US through cycles of corrupt policy laundering. Now, the TPP is the latest step in this trend of increasingly draconian copyright rules passing through opaque, corporate-captured processes.
These excessive criminal copyright rules are what we get when Big Content has access to powerful, secretive rule-making institutions. We get rules that would send users to prison, force them to pay debilitating fines, or have their property seized or destroyed in the name of copyright enforcement. This is yet another reason why we need to stop the TPP-to put an end to this seemingly endless progression towards ever more chilling copyright restrictions and enforcement.