On November 13th, Wikileaks released the full draft Intellectual Property Right (IPR); a chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). The TPP aims to face emerging trade issues and to promote liberalization in the Asia-Pacific region. Current members and negotiators are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei. In short; the countries that, together, provide about 40% of the global GDP, are sitting around the table. Yet chances are you never heard about it before: most media bodies around the world have limited coverage on the subject.
Kept secret for a good reason, the TPP draft chapter looks like an agreement that would have negative consequences for most people around the world. Luckily, the average of 10 brackets per page and the fact that negotiations have passed 19 rounds already -the first rounds were held in 2010- indicate that this draft is far from finalized: do not raise your pitchforks just yet.
Nevertheless, TPP is already criticized because it is negotiated behind closed doors: citizens get the feeling they are excluded and that parties are trying to make a top secret agreement, whereas intellectual property rights should be discussed publicly. This was made clear when the USA tried to secretly pass the SOPA and PIPA acts. When word spread, SOPA and PIPA were halted by extreme protests: around 8 million Americans tried to contact their congressmen.
Interestingly, the TPP draft resembles SOPA and PIPA both in some of the proposals made and in the lack of official information. Even worse: there is less information, while it is actually more important than the SOPA or PIPA acts were, since these only involved the American people. Efforts to make the issue more public have not had any success so far: Australian journalists have even been banned from reporting on the TPP. And when the Australian Senate asked their government to publish the finalized text of the TPP before voting or agreeing upon it, they were not listened to.
THE CONTENT OF THE DRAFT
Reading the text, one has to keep in mind that a lot of the text has probably changed by now. However, the main thought catches the eye: things that cannot be patented at present, can possibly be patented in the future (plants, animals, video game rules), you can re-patent an old patent by claiming it has a new use, copyright duration will become life + 70 years minimum and if the USA get their way, there will even be liability for Internet Service Providers involved for what their costumers do on the web!
The TPP as it is, is bound to cause problems in the world, and probably mostly in developing countries. Medicines are a good example: the TPP would make it possible for companies to extend their monopoly on medicines, which would result in higher prices for a longer period of time. This would seriously impede non-profit organizations to maintain a steady flow of medicines to Less Developed Countries. That cannot be the intention of the parties.
Indeed, most parties of the TPP agree that, even though they want progress on Intellectual property rights, it is important that a newly reached agreement does not create barriers for the economy or trade. And more importantly, the parties emphasize that they want to “Support each Party’s right to protect public health, including by facilitating timely access to affordable medicines”. The USA and Japan, however, oppose this thought.
USA AND JAPAN: LONELY WOLVES
Admittedly, this secret document is wearisome to read. This is due to a big amount of brackets, which indicate that a party opposes or proposes something –anything-, even if no other party shares its view. Here, it is noticeable how often the USA, Australia and Japan share ideas in a block against the other countries: most of the outrageous ideas are supported by at least one of them.
The mindset with which the USA and Japan have joined these negotiations seems to be one focused on their companies. Understandably so, as they own about half of the patents in the world: it is much in their interest to keep the laws as tight as possible in order to enable companies to always sue somebody for copyright infringement, even a single civilian. The fact that American and Japanese ‘industry advisers’ –a nice word for lobbyists- are present during the negotiations further adds to the feeling that USA and Japan are there to protect their patents, not to liberalize economies in the pacific regions. The TPP as it is, is not a good agreement, and far from its original goal of liberalization. Japan and the USA are basically saying: we love monopoly. And it is obvious they do not mean the board game.
Read up on TPP: