Trans-Pacific partnership: Good or bad for the internet?

8 Dec 2016 10:00h - 11:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 11th Internet Governance Forum]

Mr Milton Mueller, Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Public Policy, USA, initiated the session by providing a brief introduction to the issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The session aimed to look at the overall benefits and determinants of the TPP. 

Mr Jeremy Malcolm, Senior Global Policy Analyst, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) pointed out the absurdity of copyright laws under the TPP, which require them to be changed from life +50 years to life +70 years in 6 of 12 countries. He further criticised the creation of much harsher punishments to access trade secrets, putting journalists, civil society, and whistle-blowers under serious risks. He added that although the TPP is now dead in the United States, other countries are considering putting it into effect.

Mr Juan Antonio Dorantes, Partner, Aguilar y Loera, S.C., presented the government’s perspective on trade deals. He added that since the creation of the WTO, IP was considered one of the pillars of WTO law and trade law. He further added that the WTO and WIPO are trade-related organisations and are not for discussion on the Internet or human rights protection. Dorantes noted that trade agreements will remain a vehicle to propose and negotiate better and stronger protection for IPR. This, he said, will happen irrespective of what happens with the TPP in the USA or with President-Elect Donald Trump.

The panel then focused on e-commerce and trade deals. Starting the conversation, Ms Burcu Kilic, Legal Counsel at Public Citizen, stated that she believes in trade but a fair one, adding that the TPP is not a fair trade. E-commerce was the best-kept secret of TPP. She noted that trade agreements are becoming increasingly effective tools for Internet governance and stressed the need to come up with better standards. 

Ms Cécile Barayrer-El Shami, ‎Program Manager, ‎UNCTAD, commented that the e-commerce chapter in any regional trade agreement has never been controversial compared to IP and employment rights.  She further added that only half of the developing countries have data protection laws in place which leads to unequal grounds for negotiations. She supported the argument made by Dorantes, saying the text is a good base for agreement.

Mr Nick Bramble, Public Policy Manager at Google Inc., highlighted the importance of cross-border connectivity and keeping the Internet open. He identified filtering, blocking, disclosure of encryption, and unbalanced copyright laws as issues that erode the baseline functions of the Internet. He stressed the need to better engage and try to shape the conversations on trade deals.

Malcolm commented that while the IGF is a good place to have a multistakeholder conversation on trade deals, there was no indication of trade negotiators paying attention to the forum. He commented that the Trade community is way behind the Internet community.

Dorantes added that governments will have to make the process more open and inclusive by reaching out to civil society and at the same time, civil society should understand trade agreements and know how to present their views to the government. He also stressed the need for civil society to engage through reliable tools for consultations and negotiations with the government. He further added that governments are dealing with the Internet from many different perspectives and one of the challenges is to incorporate the different views and all the other elements that the Internet involves in a very harmonic way.

The panel agreed that a communication gap exists between governments and civil society and that there is a need for better understanding of each other’s perspectives in the upcoming trade negotiations.

by Krishna Kumar, Internet Society