The many-headed monster of international trade agreements: TPP, TTIP, TISA, and CETA
We've been warning against the threat presented by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, particularly over the past few months, given that time is running out to stop it. For the uninitiated, TPP is a secret treaty that would trap participating countries into laws that lock users down with DRM, software patents, and perpetual copyright restrictions. TPP will also give corporations the power to interfere with local policy decisions by suing governments if they try to pass any laws or regulations that protect users. The danger is particularly imminent in the U.S., where Congress is readying to grant the Obama administration Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), meaning that they would be giving up their right and duty to review and amend the worst parts of the eventual treaty before the terms of the deal have even been publicly released. The final vote in the Senate is set for tomorrow, June 24th, so today may be the last chance to stop TPA. That is why we've been pushing users here in the States so hard to fight back now. But the harm caused by granting TPA unfortunately isn't limited to what is hidden within the pages of TPP. Once granted, TPA lasts for years and would enable the same abrogation of duty when it comes to two other secret, international negotiations: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trade In Services Agreement (TISA).
TTIP is in many respects similar to TPP, and covers much of the same ground. But, whereas TPP covers agreements between the U.S. and many Asian countries, TTIP address similar issues between the U.S. and the European Union. Some documents have been made public for these negotiations, though the actual negotiation texts for the copyright and patents chapter is notably still secret. Despite that, we can still draw some disturbing conclusions. Like TPP, TTIP would grant proprietary developers supra-national power to interfere with local laws and policies in the form of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). TTIP also has provisions about software patents that could lock the U.S. and EU into their current terrible situation. Trying to end software patents locally is difficult enough already, but if TTIP passes, for signatory countries there may not be any way out. Ever fond of secrecy, the negotiators for TTIP are pushing a possible expansion of penalties relating to trade secrets.
TISA has the potential for the most widespread impact, with Europe, the U.S., and many more countries negotiating in secret. A recent leak included a particularly nefarious term: a prohibition on governmental mandates for free software. Article 6 states that "No Party may require the transfer of, or access to, source code of software owned by a person of another Party, as a condition of providing services related to such software in its territory." Governments around the world have come to understand the importance of free software to ensuring a free society. Many governments have chosen to mandate the use of free software in their offices and in their software service contracts. Ensuring that government-used and -purchased software is free for anyone to review, share, and modify promotes the safety and security of the people. TISA would stop governments all around the world from putting into action their dedication to the principles of free software.
Even if Article 6 were modified or interpreted more narrowly to allow free software mandates, it would still be extremely problematic. Even if the section is simply meant to prevent governments from demanding source from proprietary developers as part of their contracts, it would still leave the same holes in security that only access to source can provide. Even if a government isn't able to use free software in a particular instance, it should still be able to demand that source code be given to the government to ensure that the code has no back doors or vulnerabilities. Furthermore, the government should still be able to review source to handle bug fixes or make the software compatible with other systems; governments shouldn't be beholden to a single company for support and customization of the software they pay for with tax dollars.
TPP, TTIP, and TISA all include the U.S. as a bargaining nation, meaning that the deal on Trade Promotion Authority being negotiated in the Senate right now could fast track all of them this week. But there are other agreements that are as nefarious and must be stopped with the same urgency. Case in point: the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU. Like the other agreements, CETA has terrible provisions, including a copyright extension and anti-circumvention provisions for Canada. While the text is now public, that publication came only after negotiations were complete.
While each of these agreements varies the trouble they would implement slightly, they are all being negotiated in secret, and for good reason: if people knew what was in them, they would fight back. And that's exactly what we must do. These agreements are being put together with tons of input from corporations and trade groups who seek to benefit from the restrictions these treaties will implement. The people they will control are not welcome at the table, but we still have a voice. Now is the time to speak up and let the leaders in every country subject to these negotiations know that these bargains made in the shadows must be brought into the light to die.
The time to fight back is now. Here is how you can help:
- If you only have a moment to help, please spread the word by sharing this article with your friends, or microblogging the following:
I oppose secret international trade agreements in all forms. Protect free software by stopping #TTP #TTIP and #TISA (shortened link to article)
Note that if you use Twitter for microblogging, you can do so in a way that avoids using proprietary software.
If you are in the US, join EFF's action and write to your representatives telling them not to grant Trade Promotion Authority, and that you oppose these secret negotiations. EFF's action uses the free software tool Phantom of the Capitol. Today may be your last chance to stop TPA.
If you live in Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, or Vietnam, contact your local representative and let them know you oppose TPP.
If you live in the European Union, contact your local representative and let them know you oppose TTIP, TISA, and CETA.
If you live in Australia, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Taiwan, Uruguay, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Turkey, Pakistan, or Paraguay contact your local representative and let them know you oppose TISA.
Canadian users should likewise contact their representatives to demand an out from CETA.