TPP Talks Deadlocked; Still No Transparency
from the about-to-get-SOPA'd? dept
As Techdirt revealed a couple of days ago, one reason why the European Commission decided to refer ACTA to the European Court of Justice was a fear that another SOPA disaster was in the offing. It's a little too early to be sure, but we may be seeing the first signs that the equally problematic TPP agreement is also running into problems because of heightened sensitivity to key issues in the wake of the Net-based revolt against SOPA.
Here's a report by Sean Flynn, on the latest round of TPP negotiations, held recently in Australia:
Contrasting with apparent progress on some other chapters, which were declared “on track” by negotiators, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’s intellectual property chapter appears to have stalled in Melbourne. According to some sources, the 10 day negotiation yielded no meaningful progress on the intellectual property chapter. This is as some of the most controversial aspects of the U.S. proposal, including internet service liability and the “May 2007” access to medicines issues, came to the table.
The ISP liability issue is the familiar one of making intermediaries responsible for what their customers do. The result of bringing in laws to this effect would be to push ISPs to monitor their users and to block content in order to minimize the risk of being sued. TPP may not require surveillance and censorship, but those would be its inevitable consequences.
What's new, though, is the growing general concern about TPP's impact on access to medicines, particularly the low-cost generics that are important for many countries in the Pacific region. KEI's Krista Cox wrote about this in her summary of the Melbourne meeting:
The afternoon session [of the TPP Stakeholder Forum] began with eight representatives of the generic pharmaceutical industry giving strong statements in opposition to the US "access window" text, opposing in particular the provisions related to patent term extensions, patent linkage, and exclusive rights over test data. These representatives noted that the US proposal would hinder access to affordable generic medicines
Cox's report also makes clear that the TPP negotiators have still not heeded SOPA's -- and ACTA's -- lessons about the importance of real transparency:
The first question came in the form of request for greater transparency, including the release of the text, in order to permit the general public to be part of the process. The Australian chief negotiator stated that the stakeholder forum provides the primary way for stakeholders to participate and it is common practice not to release texts during negotiations of free trade agreements. He suggested that releasing the text would not be feasible because "nothing is agreed until it is agreed."
Of course, that's absurd: many members of the public are just as capable as reading a text with multiple, possibly conflicting, options as TPP negotiators are, and to pretend otherwise is insulting, to say the least. The continuing absence of any officially-released draft (we have some leaks) means that the TPP negotiation process is still less transparent than ACTA was -- and will remain that way even after the treaty is concluded.
The Australian chief negotiator may think it is "common practice not to release texts during negotiations of free trade agreements", but that was before SOPA. A decade ago, sharing drafts and soliciting feedback from the general public would have been difficult. Today, it's easy. After SOPA, it's unacceptable not to.