Congress Finally Releases Fast Track Trade Bill, And It's A Mess

from the why-do-republicans-want-to-do-this? dept

For the past few months there have been rumors every few weeks that Congress was finally going to push out a "fast track" or "trade promotion authority" bill. As we've explained, these bills are Congress giving up their Constitutional right to regulate international trade, and handing the power over the USTR, a part of the executive branch. While some supporters of this argue that it actually gives Congress more power, by laying out the conditions of a trade deal it will approve, that's ridiculous. That might be true if fast track authority were granted prior to a deal being done, but with the TPP and TTIP pretty far along, it's clearly not true. Either way, despite massive opposition from the President's own party, an agreement has been reached between Senator Hatch and Senator Wyden and a trade promotion bill has been released.

Back in February, we presented a simple litmus test concerning whether or not any such effort would actually be reasonable on intellectual property issues: would the text of the bill concerning intellectual property be any different than the last fast track authority bill from 2002 (or an attempt to update it in 2014). Both of those bills had nearly verbatim text. And... as we feared, so does this new bill. Given just how much the internet has changed since 2002, it is simply inconceivable to suggest that the same intellectual property rules that made sense then would continue to make sense now. In other words, despite the involvement of Senator Wyden, it appears that little has been done here to make it clear to the USTR that bad IP rules in the TPP or TTIP agreement are unacceptable. That's a disappointment. Here are the key provisions on intellectual property. Note that they are basically all about enforcement (i.e., protectionism) rather than the free flow of information (which is what you'd expect a trade deal to be about).
providing strong protection for new and emerging technologies and new methods of transmitting and distributing products embodying intellectual property, including in a manner that facilitates legitimate digital trade;

preventing or eliminating discrimination with respect to matters affecting the availability, acquisition, scope, maintenance, use, and enforcement of intellectual property rights;

ensuring that standards of protection and enforcement keep pace with technological developments, and in particular ensuring that rightholders have the legal and technological means to control the use of their works through the Internet and other global communication media, and to prevent the unauthorized use of their works;

providing strong enforcement of intellectual property rights, including through accessible, expeditious, and effective civil, administrative, and criminal enforcement mechanisms; and

preventing or eliminating government involvement in the violation of intellectual property rights, including cyber theft and piracy;
These are basically word for word the same from 2002. In other words, despite over a decade of seeing how the USTR has used trade deals to browbeat other countries into bad intellectual property laws, this new trade promotion authority is saying "go ahead and continue doing just that, no matter what harm it may do to the internet and all of the economic growth it creates."

Unlike some who are totally against any trade deals, I believe there are ways in which increasing actual free trade can be helpful. I had held out hope that the new trade promotion agreement would be more reasonable than what we'd seen in the past. But just looking at the intellectual property section alone, and the fact that it has remained unchanged since the 2002 version -- despite over a decade of seeing how bad IP policy can hurt internet innovation and economic growth -- suggests that this TPA agreement continues the mistakes of the past, rather than fixes them. That's unfortunate.

And so, now comes a very, very weird fight in Congress. With nearly all Democrats opposed to this bill even including the surprise change in position by Senator Chuck Schumer, we'll have a situation where Congressional Republicans try and convince their colleagues to give President Obama more power, by removing the Constitutional authority from Congress, while Congressional Democrats push back against giving their own President that power. It's a really weird fight in oh so many ways.

Filed Under: chuck schumer, fast track, fast track authority, intellectual property, orrin hatch, ron wyden, tafta, trade, trade agreements, trade promotion, trade promotion authority, ttip, ttp, ustr


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 2:18pm

    Well that's disappointing

    And just like that, my respect for Wyden plummets.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 2:24pm

      Re: Well that's disappointing

      I second that

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 3:39pm

      Re: Well that's disappointing

      I was right to suspect him from the very beginning. It all started with his "more reasonable" version of SOPA that thankfully went nowhere. He's also been suspiciously silent about TPP and Fast Track for ages save for mild grandstanding. His true colors have shown: he's just as bad as any of them. Of course, I was expecting it anyway considering I've witnessed similar people falling to corruption and cronyism as well.

      He's the latest in my growing list of "traitors to online freedom," and he is definitely not going to be the last.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 2:27pm

    I have read that about 60 house republicans oppose it

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 2:30pm

    Has there been any press on this? I have conservative friends who have not heard of TPP and can't figure out what the fuss is about.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 2:41pm

      Re:

      That's a feature, not a bug. The entire process has been shrouded in secrecy from the start, of course they're not going to want the public to know about it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 2:43pm

      Re:

      Yes, clearly, because Techdirt reported on it. Techdirt mainly provides commentary on existing stories from other news sources. Whether any major news outlets are discussing the potential problems with it that this and other Techdirt articles have mentioned? I dont know. Try the links in the articles to the news sources this is based on.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Craig Welch (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 4:46pm

      What's the point of press if no-one reads it?

      Are you serious? Any press? Yes, there has been a huge volume of press on TPP and TTIP, most of it critical. Even Forbes weighed in the other day against these agreements.

      I can't imagine having such ignorant friends. Much of the press has been outside the US - oh, enough said.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      jingoi, 17 Apr 2015 @ 8:13pm

      Re:

      It has been mentioned by Ed Schultz since 2013, about a month ago there was mainstream reporting in japan about it because of how tpp would affect doujinshi and cosplay.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rich Fiscus (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 2:32pm

    It's a really weird fight in oh so many ways.


    Funny that this should come on the same day as the piece about ALEC. They also happen to be one of the key proponents of the TPP. I'd also be willing to bet they, or one of the other "think tanks" aligned with them, provided the initial framework for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 2:33pm

    yep

    And just like that, my respect for Wyden plummets.

    i have an old saying on that: its always the ones you least expect to stab you in the back that push the knife deeper then anyone else.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 2:34pm

    So... Negotiated in secret to avoid public scrutiny, the final terms of TPP will be released only 60 days before the president signs it, and congress will not be allowed to amend the text before voting on its ratification.

    That's no way to run a democracy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Unanimous Cow Herd, 16 Apr 2015 @ 2:38pm

    So continues..

    the illusion of choice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 2:57pm

    Do you own a gun? If you do, that is another reason to oppose TPA. Alex Jones warned some time ago that TPA will also be used to ram through a UN arms agreement that will take away your rights to own a firearm.

    TPA will also be used to ram through a draconian "climate change" agreement that will be distastrous all around, one version rumored to implement a "one child" policy worldwide, among other things.

    TPA is much more a disaster that just TPP or TAFTA, which why it must never be passed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 3:34pm

      Re:

      Those involved are greedy, not stupid, so the odds that such insane things would be involved are next to nothing.

      There's more than enough to criticize the 'trade' agreements with, even with how secret they've been, without tossing out wild speculation that just makes those critical of the agreements look nuts.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 3:43pm

      Re:

      You mean the recent UN Arms Trade Treaty which imposes Gun REgestration for Foreign made guns? Not quite sure how that takes away your rights to own a firearm. Admittedly, gun registration is a controvertial topic, but its hardly taking your guns away...

      Cant entirely find a current Climate change Treaty, suggesting that your now just throwing out a boogy man to pile on the FUD.

      TPA is bad. no need to Straw Man it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 4:54pm

        Re: Re:

        Alex Jones, on one of his shows, warned that this will be used to ram the gun control treaty through. That is one reason Alex Jones opposes TPA.

        TPP, TAFTA, the UN arms control treaty, and nearly every other bad agreement out there to shred the constitution will be rammed through using TPA, which is why Alex Jones opposes TPA, and why you should, too

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          sorrykb (profile), 17 Apr 2015 @ 10:16am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Generally Alex Jones saying anything is reason enough to believe the opposite is likely true. But I suppose even a broken clock...

          He happens to be right this time, for entirely the wrong reasons. Which doesn't really count as right because his reasoning is entirely unsupported.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 17 Apr 2015 @ 10:53am

      Re:

      "Alex Jones warned..."

      Then it must be true! /sarc

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 3:02pm

    providing strong protection for new and emerging technologies and new methods of transmitting and distributing products embodying intellectual property, including in a manner that facilitates legitimate digital trade;

    preventing or eliminating discrimination with respect to matters affecting the availability, acquisition, scope, maintenance, use, and enforcement of intellectual property rights;

    ensuring that standards of protection and enforcement keep pace with technological developments, and in particular ensuring that rightholders have the legal and technological means to control the use of their works through the Internet and other global communication media, and to prevent the unauthorized use of their works;

    providing strong enforcement of intellectual property rights, including through accessible, expeditious, and effective civil, administrative, and criminal enforcement mechanisms; and

    preventing or eliminating government involvement in the violation of intellectual property rights, including cyber theft and piracy;


    So even Wyden came out against freeloading and grifting?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MarcAnthony (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 3:26pm

    class action?

    If part of their duty is to regulate trade and they willfully abandon that role, doesn't that mean they lose immunity? Maybe some congresspeople merit prosecuting under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 for forfeiting their constituent's rights.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 3:34pm

    And this is yet another reason why the two party system is a failure, especially when it's two parties of the same old shit. Ignoring fringe issues, they both converge in sucking the highest bidder's dick.

    (even) Short(er) version: CESSPOOL! CESSPOOL! CESSPOOL!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Allen (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 9:12pm

    Note that they are basically all about enforcement (i.e., protectionism) rather than the free flow of information (which is what you'd expect a trade deal to be about).


    Exactly. Every time I read some economist spouting support for one of these deals it's clear that they don't understand the real purpose is not free trade of goods and services but good old fashioned protectionism against the free exchange of ideas and information.

    Just as protectionism weakened rather than protected manufacturers' ability to compete on a global stage so will this new protectionism weaken those not able to compete on a level intellectual field. The implications are profound.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Atkray (profile), 16 Apr 2015 @ 10:11pm

    A better test.

    A simple litmus test concerning whether or not any such effort would actually be reasonable on intellectual property issues: If Hatch has his name on it, it stinks. The louder he is opposed to it, the better it is for the unwashed masses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2015 @ 9:55pm

    Help Wikileaks expose the Trade Deals!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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