from the good-and-getting-better dept
What an extraordinary year this has been for Net activism. After the great SOPA blackout led to SOPA and PIPA being withdrawn, and the anti-ACTA street demonstrations triggered a complete rethink by the European Parliament that may well result in a rejection of the treaty, now it seems that the Trans Pacific Partnership is falling to pieces.
Foreign Policy magazine, for example, has a feature entitled Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Foundering?, where its author explains that a number of the smaller countries participating in the negotiations are starting to ask themselves whether there are any advantages in joining at all:
Of even more concern, however , is the sudden questioning by the Chileans of the value of the deal as presently being constituted. Chile had been considered a slam dunk supporter. So its raising of questions is a red flag danger signal. Beyond that it seems that the Malaysians are also questioning whether any benefits they may be getting are worth the trouble of further liberalization of their domestic economy. And just to put the icing on the cake, it is becoming ever clearer that the Vietnamese, whose economy resembles that of China with large segments controlled by state owned companies, are going to have great difficulty in actually meeting the high standards being proposed.
As Techdirt has reported, TPP has been negotiated in the utmost secrecy, but now that word is finally leaking out about its provisions, there is resistance building in the US:
Although the deal, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, has received relatively little media attention in the United States, it has sparked international friction among consumer groups and environmental activists who worry that terms demanded by the Obama administration will eliminate important public protections. Domestically, however, the deal's primary source of political tension is from a portion that could ban "Buy American" provisions -- a restriction that opponents emphasize would crimp U.S. jobs.
That seems like a pretty significant issue. After all, one of the supposed aims of the trade agreement is to remove such internal barriers to trade for all signatories. But in an election year, President Obama will hardly want to be painted as someone who is sacrificing American jobs.
Even assuming this major contradiction is resolved somehow, and the other Pacific Rim countries don't decide to abandon the treaty altogether, TPP is still fundamentally flawed for the same reason that ACTA is flawed: China is not a signatory. And the idea that once TPP (or ACTA) is in place, China will suddenly rush to sign up is extremely unlikely, for reasons that Arvind Subramanian, an expert in Chinese economic policy, explains:
"China would never agree to just fall in line with rules in the negotiations of which it has not participated," he writes in a policy brief.
However you look at it, TPP seems to be in serious trouble. Coupled with the withdrawal of SOPA, and the possible rejection of ACTA, this represents a string of setbacks for copyright and patent maximalism that a year ago would have seemed impossible.
If China did agree to participate in the talks, it would have huge bargaining leverage. Better to have multilateral talks where China’s power is diluted by the addition of Brazil, Europe, India and others to the talks.
A third possibility is that China comes to view the TPP as a hostile effort to "encircle" China economically. "TPP could thus provoke China into playing the regionalism game in a way that could fundamentally fragment the trading system," he writes.