There’s been a development in the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) negotiations and it involved Canada. We recently learned that Canada is one critical step closer to joining the secretive agreement. What could that mean for Canadians? It could render the battle for balanced copyright for the last seven years meaningless – and that’s just the beginning of the bad news for Canadians.
We’ve been following the developments of the TPP closely for the last several weeks. This is because we know what kind of threat it represents for the sovereignty of any country walking into the agreement. Now, the word circulating is that Canada is one critical step closer to being included in the agreement. We found the news on the National Post and it contains some rather unnerving details about how Canada is closer to getting in:
Canada was slower to accept and late Sunday, officials were still saying that there would be no announcement on the TPP this week. One veteran trade observer suggested there may have been conditions Mr. Harper found unpalatable but neither the office of Ed Fast, the trade minister, or the Prime Minister’s Office would offer details of any potential irritants.
Trade sources suggest Canada is also being asked to sign up for sections of the agreement that have already been agreed, without seeing the text in advance. “This remains far, far from a done deal,” cautioned one official.
Furthermore, TPP members like New Zealand have called for Canada’s entry to be blocked until it agrees to dismantle supply management, which protects the country’s egg, chicken and dairy sectors.
Michael Geist commented on this latest development saying that also isn’t allowed to veto anything as well.
Of course, we know from following the TPP that Canada is getting a very raw deal here. As I noted more than a month ago, the TPP contains some very extreme copyright provisions. At the time, I quoted Wikipedia, and I’ll be happy to show you what I obtained back then here today:
1. Include a number of features that would lock-in as a global norm many controversial features of U.S. law, such as endless copyright terms.
2. Create new global norms that are contrary to U.S. legal traditions, such as those proposed to damages for infringement, the enforcement of patents against surgeons and other medical professional, rules concerning patents on biologic medicines etc.
3. Undermine many proposed reforms of the patent and copyright system, such as, for example, proposed legislation to increase access to orphaned copyrighted works by limiting damages for infringement, or statutory exclusions of “non-industrial” patents such as those issued for business methods.
4. Would eliminate any possibility of parallel trade in copyrighted books, journals, sheet music, sound recordings, computer programs, and audio and visual works.
5. Requires criminal enforcement for technological measures beyond WIPO Internet Treaties, even when there is not copyright infringement, impose a legal regime of ISP liability beyond the DMCA standards.
6. Requires legal incentives for service providers to cooperate with copyright owners in deterring the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyrighted materials.
7. Requires identifying internet users for any ISP, going beyond U.S. case law, includes the text of the controversial US/KOREA side letter on shutting down web sites.
8. Requires adopting compensation for infringement without actual damages.
9. For copyright and trademark, criminal punishment would apply even to non-for-profit infringement.
What if you don’t care about copyright though? Is that all? No. As we already know, there is also a very radical investment chapter as well. Last month, we were amongst the first to report on the leaking of the investment chapter and the contents are reportedly not good. During some of the debate we reported yesterday, we immediately knew what was so controversial about the investment chapter for a lot of people. If you have any form of regulation whatsoever, and a corporation doesn’t like it, that corporation can sue the domestic government because it doesn’t conform with their rules. All that corporation would have to do is appeal to a foreign tribunal system being set up through the TPP. In short, the corporation operates under their own chosen rulebook while operating on domestic soil, creating a two track legal system.
Unsurprisingly, these concerns have sparked widespread outrage in New Zealand to the point where the government was almost immediately thrown into damage control, trying to quell anger and accusations of the government selling out its own people.
We don’t know what is in the other chapters of the TPP. We are only aware of the two. They two that are there do paint a very ugly picture. With the Canadian government being asked to blindly accept the chapters as-is, there is little doubt that Prime Minister Stephen Harpers comment of not being able to recognize Canada when he’s done with it will come true. All he really needed was the TPP to accomplish it.
As for Canadians in general, all I can say is that if Canada is in on the TPP agreement, Canadians should enjoy what’s left of their freedoms. Canadians will eventually be able to mark their calendar for the official day the country ceased being a free and fair country for all.