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“No” vote on the TPP

By Staff | Nov 29, 2013

Ever since word of it got out on WikiLeaks, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has become a highly maligned bit of negotiation. It’s maligned because it is supposedly a trade deal with a lot in it that has nothing to do with trade. It’s maligned because it is a very broad deal with some scary things in it. It’s maligned because of how it was being negotiated.

Previously, the TPP was being negotiated with no transparency and behind closed doors. Representatives of the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei and Australia were key players in the negotiations. However, with the leak of the intellectual property provisions of the TPP, the Internet has been alight with criticism.

According to an article on Bulatlat.com (an “alternative journalism” site based in the Philippines), the copyright enforcement provision would severely limit freedoms on the Internet by making downloading temporary copies of anything a punishable offense; by compelling internet service providers to police the web and find anything that could be considered copyright infringement; and by extending the terms of how long pieces of work are copyrighted, which could keep works out of public domain for longer.

What does this mean? It’s like the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) all over again-a bad deal with bad language that crushes freedoms on the Internet. Only it’s worse. It could mean that posting a video of yourself or your family singing “Happy Birthday” on YouTube, or trying to download a copy of even something so minor as a manual could be punishable.

And for those with iPads, iPhones or iPods, if you wanted to alter your device’s software so that it could use apps that wouldn’t normally work on said devices (a term known as “jailbreaking”), it’s possible that the TPP would make it punishable too. (For Android device users, there’s a similar process known as “rooting”, but it’s unclear whether the TPP would make that punishable too.)

Critics have also said that the TPP, as it stands, really only benefits major corporations, not consumers in each of the countries at the table negotiating it. Essentially, critics are saying that you, Tribune reader, won’t benefit from this at all. One of these critics, Mark Weisbrot of The Guardian, said that it would make it easy for pharmaceutical companies to get and keep patents in developing nations, and it would allow surgical procedures to be patented as well-both of which would raise the prices of medicine and health care even further in other countries. He also says that under this agreement, corporations can sue other countries who are putting forth legislation that would get in the way of corporations making money.

Those things that Weisbrot said sound disturbing, but what should be even more disturbing is that the Obama administration tried to fast track-put a trade agreement to an up-and-down vote without allowing any amendments-the TPP. (In other words, the deal would’ve been put through Congress without any chances to find and fix any inherent problems.) However, according to The Diplomat, 151 House Democrats and 22 House Republicans, including Rep. Michele Bachman (R-Minn.), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) wrote letters to the Obama administration saying they would oppose any efforts to fast track it.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, like SOPA before it, is extremely broad, and its language scares people. Right now there is bipartisan opposition, and as more about the TPP comes to light it will be something that more people will oppose.

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