TPP And TAFTA/TTIP Done Right: The Alternative Trade Mandate

from the transparently-obvious dept

Insofar as we know what’s in them, both TPP and TAFTA/TTIP appear to have deep, thorough-going problems, which are unlikely to be addressed by the current approach being used to draw them up. However, a justified criticism of that view might be that anybody can carp, but what should we put in their place? Rising to that challenge is an alliance of some 50 civil society groups, who over four years have put together what they call The Alternative Trade Mandate (pdf), which is specifically designed to present a radically different emphasis for European trade negotiations:

The new 20-page mandate proposes that core principles such as human and labour rights and environmental protection should drive EU trade policy. On several areas, such as food, work, money and raw materials, detailed proposals for change are outlined. One proposal is for the EU to become more self-sufficient in protein and oil crops as alternatives to imports of (genetically-modified) soybeans, palm oil and agrofuels, which are devastating for the environment and small farmers in the global south. The mandate also calls on the EU to hold European corporations accountable for human rights violations, environmental destruction, tax avoidance and tax evasion elsewhere.

One of the areas discussed that will be of particular interest to Techdirt readers concerns intellectual monopolies. The problems in this field are well known; here are some of the ways The Alternative Trade Mandate suggests Europe should fix them:

encourage broad public participation, base policy making on research rather than faith, ideology or corporate lobbying, use transparent research, with publicly documented methods, assumptions, funding sources, and underlying data.

respect the rights to due process and a fair trial, maintain adequate evidentiary thresholds, avoid undue expansion of criminal and third party liability, strictly scrutinise public enforcement responsibilities delegated to private actors, ensure that legal penalties are reasonable and proportional and do not include restrictions on access to essential goods and services, including access to the Internet or to needed medicines and learning materials.

set a permanent moratorium on further extensions of copyright, related rights and patent terms, place Free/Libre/Open Source Software on an equal competitive footing with proprietary software, require the use of open standards for information produced by or for public entities, grant the public free and unrestricted access to all government-funded endeavors.

Notice that the first point is about participation and transparency. One reason why the current document is so welcome is that unlike TPP and TAFTA/TTIP, it recognizes that transparency is not some unimportant feature that is tacked on as an after-thought, but a fundamental aspect that must inform the entire process — before, during and after the negotiations. Its concrete suggestions in this area are probably the most important in the whole proposal:

All negotiating positions and draft texts must be published promptly. The [European] Commission, member states and parliaments must regularly and pro-actively provide online access to information about meetings and correspondence between officials, parliamentarians and lobbyists, in order to inform the public on who’s attempting to influence trade negotiations, on whose behalf, with what means and agenda, and with what success.

The starting point for our alternative is reducing the role of the European Commission, and strengthening that of parliaments. This needs to happen at all stages of the decision-making and negotiating process. If democracy is about political decisions being made by people and their elected representatives, trade and investment policies cannot remain with an unelected body.

In order to ensure a maximum level of inclusion and participation, national parliaments should organise meaningful civil society participation at the national level. Only national parliaments and the European Parliament should be able to take the initiative to launch the process leading to trade negotiations.

It’s a pretty bold document: by their own admission, not even all its participating organizations agree with every part of it. Nobody expects the European Commission to adopt it as their roadmap, but it’s important because it shows that there is an alternative to the current rounds of trade and investment negotiations driven solely by corporate demands, one that puts people, not profit, first. And in placing transparency and participation at the heart of its approach — the authors call it a “living document”, and invite anyone to comment and join the debate — The Alternative Trade Mandate exposes what is perhaps biggest flaw of both TAFTA/TTIP and TPP: the lack of any meaningful transparency or public participation whatsoever.

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Comments on “TPP And TAFTA/TTIP Done Right: The Alternative Trade Mandate”

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Anonymous Coward says:

all this does is give the maximalists the knowledge of what to go after TO STOP, TO ENSURE DOESN’T GET INCLUDED, TO MAKE SURE THE PUBLIC CANT AND ARE NEVER ABLE TO HAVE! this studies make the copyright, and entertainment industries mainly aware of what the public are entitled to and should have so as to be able to lobby against.
we will never get wgat any politician is elected to do, we will never have the items and the permissions to which we are entitled, we will never have the rights we should always have. why? because those that should be working their bollocks off to make sure these things (and a few others as well) are never removed, are able to accept bribes in one form or another, from those that want to own everything and everyone, and thereby stopping those public/customer entitlements! make politicians caught accepting bribes and campaign donations, even by someone else but on their behalf, and all lobbying for personal/company interests illegal, then we will see some sensible discussions and progress! leave things how they are and the crap just keeps happening!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Which is part of the democratic process, that is why it needs to be open so everyone and I mean everyone can have their opinions heard including the very nasty people at the top making the decisions today.

About the never part you probably wrong, we will have our day, things change, maybe not in a lifetime but over the course of many things do change.

Today the rate of change can be many times the speed it was before the internet guarantees that, we just need a database for laws, draft laws, history of changes mades, a way to know how it was spread, a visualizer for the data, which is not that far away, we have thousands of apps doing something very similar today and we call those things collection manager apps.

Heck I bet that even here on Techdirt we could have a database prototype if we choose to make one.

No need to get all doomsday, wee have options and we can fight this is just not going to be flashy, but boring, that is part of the cost of doing it though, there is no way around that, congress people are not caught frequently sleeping in session for nothing, there is a reason that it happens so frequently.

Anonymous Coward says:

The primary reason for these deals is to “increase trade”. since tariffs and harrassment are close to eliminated the only way to ensure a short-term increase in trade is to hollow out anti-corporate legislation and strenghtening private proprietary rights.

A more adult and responsible way to deal with these trade negotiations is to open the process to avoid screwing over too many others in the crusade for a short-term boost. Since trade negotiators couldn’t give a flying about anything but trade, it is unfortunately a utopian dream.

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