Global Trade Agreements: Unstoppable, Or Being Stopped?
from the big-question dept
The Berlin Forum on Global Politics, in collaboration with the Internet & Society Collaboratory and FutureChallenges.org of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, has put together an interesting collection of 22 wide-ranging essays dealing with TAFTA/TTIP, called "The Transatlantic Colossus" (freely available in .pdf, .epub, and .mobi file formats.) One of the essays, which compares TAFTA/TTIP with TPP, points out that we are witnessing an unprecedented level of activity in forging large-scale trade agreements:
The ongoing trend of proliferating bilateral and multilateral trade agreements has entered into a new stage with Japan's decision to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and the launch of negotiations between the EU and the US to reach a comprehensive trade and investment agreement (TAFTA | TTIP). On top of that, the EU and Japan also started negotiating a bilateral trade agreement in April 2013. Due to their sheer size, these trade blocs have the potential for significant economic and geopolitical implications.
There's no doubt that there's plenty going on in this sphere -- moves to update NAFTA can be added to the list above -- but a fascinating article on the IP Osgoode site points out that if you look at the efforts to strengthen copyrights and patents in both the domestic and international arenas, there's another dynamic at work here:
coordinated activism against perceptions about increasing levels of IP protections is being led by a host of developing states as well as civil society critics in developed and developing countries. These groups are reacting to what they consider a proprietary ownership system over cultural and communicative processes that is deemed to serve the interests of dominant industries primarily located in developed states. These actors are seeking to "rebalance" the international IP system to meet the socioeconomic development objectives of a diverse set of stakeholders in developed and developing countries. They often advocate for legal and socio-legal reforms that they contend will stimulate public policy objectives for technological innovation and economic growth while addressing the economic, social, cultural, and development needs of users, citizens, and emerging business practices.
That tension between attempts to pin down the world in a set of massive, overlapping trade agreements and the widespread pushback against ever-more unbalanced copyright and patent systems can be seen in the recently-leaked TPP chapter, which shows the US completely isolated from the other nations in its demands for yet more extreme rights for copyright and patent holders. It will be interesting to see whether the measures dealing with online copyright and Net freedom are the spark that ignites widespread public opposition to TPP just as they were for ACTA.
The increasingly contested nature of IP negotiations has resulted in a patchwork of international trade and IP agreements that are negotiated outside of established multilateral forums. In particular, the US and EU have been actively seeking arenas where they are better able to reach agreement on complex issues. However, the failure of international discussions – such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) – as well as American legislation – notably the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (the PROTECT IP Act, or PIPA) – have cast doubt on the viability of these exercises.