The U.S. government just concluded a consultation on whether it should support Canada’s entry into the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations (I have posted here, here, and here about the implications of the TPP for Canada based on a leaked chapter of the intellectual property provisions). The Canadian government submitted a brief one-pager, pointing to Bill C-11, ACTA, the dismantling of Canadian Wheat Board, and forthcoming procurement concessions to Europe as evidence that it is ready to negotiate the TPP.
While most submissions support the entry of Canada into the negotiations, it is worth noting that the major intellectual property lobby groups want to keep Canada out of the deal until we cave to the current U.S. copyright demands. The IIPA, which represents the major movie, music, and software lobby associations, points to copyright reform and new border measures as evidence of the need for Canadian reforms and states “we urge the U.S. government to use Canada’s expression of interest in the TPP negotiations as an opportunity to resolve these longstanding concerns about IPR standards and enforcement.”
Moreover, the IIPA wants it made clear that there will be no cultural exception in the agreement:
IIPA is also concerned about the significant market access barriers to U.S. copyrighted materials that Canada maintains pursuant to the â€œcultural exceptionâ€ in its FTA with the U.S. Canada has interpreted this exception to be unreasonably broad, even to encompass discriminatory application of its copyright law, and has insisted on this misinterpretation of the exception in similar provisions in other trade agreements. IIPA strongly opposes the inclusion of any such cultural exclusion in the TPP, and the Canadian government must understand that TPP will not admit of such exceptions.
Its position is therefore that “once Canada adopts legislation that sufficiently addresses the copyright law and enforcement concerns that the U.S. government has clearly and consistently expressed, and once it disavows the introduction of overarching cultural exemptions into the TPP-FTA, its participation in the TPP negotiations should be welcomed.” The large pharmaceutical companies adopt a similar approach, stating “there are a number of significant issues that need to be meaningfully addressed before Canada joins the TPP negotiations.” These include some dramatic changes to Canada’s patent laws.
The U.S. copyright and patent lobby groups are not shy about demanding that Canada cave to external pressure on intellectual property before even being admitted to negotiate an agreement that as currently proposed would require Canada to cave to further changes, including the extension of the term of copyright. The IIPA demands would also mean that all Canadian cultural industries would be on the table, potentially including current foreign ownership restrictions and other programs geared toward supporting Canadian culture.
In light of these demands, it is critical for Canadians to use the Canadian consultation process to ensure their voices are heard on the TPP, particularly on the intellectual property issues. The consultation is open until February 14, 2012. All it takes a single email with your name, address, and comments on the issue. The email can be sent to email@example.com. Alternatively, submissions can be sent by fax (613-944-3489) or mail (Trade Negotiations Consultations (TPP), Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Trade Policy and Negotiations Division II (TPW), Lester B. Pearson Building, 125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2).