Cross Border Action: The People's Round on the Trans Pacific Partnership by Caelie_Frampton (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dy8srf

Cross Border Action: The People's Round on the Trans Pacific Partnership by Caelie_Frampton (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dy8srf

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Why The Secrecy on the TPP Talks in Ottawa This Week? Because There is Something to Hide

Trade agreements have emerged in recent years as one of the federal government’s most frequently touted accomplishments. Having concluded (or nearly concluded) free trade deals with the likes of the European Union and South Korea, senior government ministers such as International Trade Minister Ed Fast and Industry Minister James Moore have held dozens of events and press conferences across the country promoting the trade agenda.

The next major agreement on the government’s docket is the Trans Pacific Partnership, a massive proposed trade deal that includes the United States, Australia, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Vietnam, Japan, Peru, and Chile. While other trade talks occupy a prominent place in the government’s promotional plans, the TPP remains largely hidden from view. Indeed, most Canadians would be surprised to learn that Canada is hosting the latest round of TPP negotiations this week in Ottawa.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) argues the secrecy associated with the TPP – the draft text of the treaty has still not been formally released, the precise location of the Ottawa negotiations has not been disclosed, and even the existence of talks was only confirmed after media leaks – suggests that the Canadian government has something to hide when it comes to the TPP.

Since this is the first major TPP negotiation round to be held in Canada, there was an opportunity to build public support for the agreement. Yet instead, the Canadian government approach stands as one of the most secretive in TPP history. Why the secrecy?

The answer may lie in the substance of the proposed agreement, which leaked documents indicate often stands in stark contrast to current Canadian policy. The agricultural provision may attract the lion share of TPP attention, but it is the digital issues that are particularly problematic from a Canadian perspective.

For example, late last month the government announced that new copyright rules associated with Internet providers would take effect starting in 2015. The Canadian system, referred to as a “notice-and-notice” approach, is widely viewed as among the most balanced in the world, providing rights holders with the ability to raise concerns about alleged infringements, while simultaneously safeguarding the privacy and free speech rights of users.

The government rightly described its approach as a “made in Canada” solution. However, according to leaked text from drafts of the TPP, the U.S. is demanding that Canada abandon notice-and-notice in favour of rules that could lead to terminating subscriber access, content blocking, and even monitoring of online activities.

The same is also true for the term of copyright protection. Canadian law currently provides protection for the life of the author plus an additional 50 years. That meets the international standard, yet the U.S. wants all TPP countries to extend the term to life plus 70 years, effectively keeping works out of the public domain for decades.

The TPP could also lead to significant changes to Canadian patent law by altering the standard of utility under Canadian law, expanding protections to plants and animals with few safeguards, and extending the term of patents in a manner that would keep cheaper generic drugs off the market. The net effect could be to sharply increase health care costs.

The digital concerns are not limited to intellectual property. The TPP also contains privacy-related provisions, including potential restrictions on local server requirements designed to ensure that Canadian personal information is hosted within Canada. A ban on such requirements would place Canadian data at risk and run counter to the government’s own policies on the storage of its email data.

The Canadian desire to maintain current policies becomes more apparent when the TPP is contrasted with the Canada – South Korea free trade agreement. That agreement permits the use of the notice-and-notice system and contains no reforms to copyright term, key patent issues, or privacy protections. The TPP may ultimately require major changes, however, which helps explain why the government would prefer that Canadians pay no attention to the secret negotiations taking place this week a few blocks from Parliament Hill.

17 Comments

  1. Pingback: What is the Canadian government hiding over TPP negotiations? Everything. « Quotulatiousness

  2. Devil's Advocate says:

    “…secret negotiations taking place this week a few blocks from Parliament Hill.”

    Expect American military on Canadian soil again, actively keeping the “terrorists” from getting too close. (Remember the Bilderberg meetings in Canada a few years ago – where American Army soldiers were firing tear gas at the citizens of Ottawa and Montebello, while walking all over the graves of their dead relatives?)

    We seriously need Harper out.

  3. Pingback: Snuppy.dk » TPP Negotiations Go Further Underground with Unprecedented Secrecy Around Meetings in Canada

  4. Pingback: TPP Negotiations Go Further Underground with Unprecedented Secrecy Around Meetings in Canada « What's on my mind!

  5. ACTA didn’t fly. The TPP has been dragging on for a long time with no agreement from anyone but the US Trade Representative. The process is now being rebooted with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). One more to be aware of.

  6. Pingback: TPP Negotiations Go Further Underground with Unprecedented Secrecy Around Meetings | News Alternative

  7. Pingback: International Treaty Negotiations Go Further Underground with Unprecedented Secrecy Around Meetings in Canada - Personal Liberty : Personal Liberty

  8. Pingback: International Treaty Negotiations Go Further Underground with Unprecedented Secrecy Around Meetings in Canada » RickMick

  9. Pingback: TPP Negotiations Go Further Underground with Unprecedented Secrecy Around Meetings in Canada | americanpeacenik technology journal

  10. Pingback: TPP Negotiations Go Further Underground with Unprecedented Secrecy Around Meetings in Canada | Electronic Frontier Foundation

  11. Pingback: TPP Negotiations Go Further Underground with Unprecedented Secrecy Around Meetings in Canada | Michigan Standard

  12. Devil's Advocate says:

    Michael,
    I don’t quite get having the pingbacks mingling with the comments.

  13. Pingback: TPP Negotiations Go Further Underground with Unprecedented Secrecy Around Meetings in Canada | Exploit Portal

  14. Pingback: Copywrong » Notice the Difference: Canada‚Äôs Internet Provider Notice-and-Notice Rules and the TPP

  15. Law abiding citizens don’t have to fear their government

  16. Pingback: Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway » Blog Archive » Don raises transparency and human rights concerns in TPP

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