The day after Canada signed the TPP (and a Leger poll found huge opposition to the agreement’s IP and ISDS provisions), the shift toward consultation and study can continue in earnest. Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, used the signing to emphasize once again that signing is not the same as ratifying and that the government is committed to a robust Parliamentary and public review of the agreement.
The Trouble with the TPP series continues today with another example of the lack of balance in the text. An earlier post noted how in the TPP rights holders’ provision are often mandatory, while those for users are treated as optional. The lopsided approach is also evident in the border measures rules. This week I discussed the expansion of border measures provisions without court oversight, which could lead to customs officials being asked to make difficult legal assessments on whether to detain goods entering the country.
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The Trouble with the TPP series this week has focused on issues such as the failure to obtain a full cultural exception and the weak e-commerce rules that do little to assist online businesses, particularly small and medium sized enterprises. Yet the Canadian digital failure goes even further. While other countries saw the opportunity to use the TPP to advance their domestic online sector through side agreements, Canada remained on the sidelines. Indeed, as some leading critics such as Jim Balsillie have noted, the Canadian government did little to even consult with Canada’s technology sector.
Consider a side letter on online education between Australia and Vietnam. The side letter opens the door to technical assistance and pilot programs for online education between the two countries, providing for assistance on distance education delivery models, assessing applications from Australian providers to deliver online education, and work to recognize the qualifications obtained from such courses. Moreover, the letter states that:
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Culture and the TPP has yet to garner much attention, but that is a mistake. The TPP departs from longstanding Canadian policy by not containing a full cultural exception and creates unprecedented restrictions on policies to support the creation of Canadian content. The Canadian position on trade and culture has been consistent for decades with successive governments requiring a full exemption for the cultural industries. The exemption, which is found in agreements such as NAFTA and CETA, give the government full latitude to implement cultural policies to support the creation of Canadian content.
The TPP’s approach to culture is different from Canada’s other trade agreements. Rather than include an exception chapter or provision, the TPP contains several annexes that identify “non-conforming measures.” This allows countries, including Canada, to list exceptions to specific TPP rules. Without an exception for the cultural industries, the TPP rules banning local presence requirements and national treatment for service providers would place Canadian cultural rules at risk. Annex II includes a Canadian exception for the cultural industries. The exception is promoted in the government’s summary of the TPP, which claims that the agreement:
includes a broad reservation under Services and Investment for existing and future programs and policies with respect to cultural industries that aim to support, directly or indirectly, the creation, development or accessibility of Canadian artistic expression and content.
That led to media coverage reporting that Canada had obtained a full exception to protect cultural policies. A closer look at the actual text, however, reveals that Canada did not obtain a full cultural exception. Rather, there are two notable exceptions to the general cultural exception, which state:
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The Trouble with the TPP continues this week with a series of posts on the TPP and privacy (prior posts include Day 1: US Blocks Balancing Provisions, Day 2: Locking in Digital Locks, Day 3: Copyright Term Extension, Day 4: Copyright Notice and Takedown Rules, Day 5: Rights Holders “Shall” vs. Users “May”, Day 6: Price of Entry, Day 7: Patent Term Extensions, Day 8: Locking in Biologics Protection, Day 9: Limits on Medical Devices and Pharma Data Collection, Day 10: Criminalization of Trade Secret Law). The inclusion of privacy within the TPP has been touted by governments as one of the benefits of the agreement, but the privacy provisions are so weak as to move global privacy backwards, weakening emerging international standards and locking countries into rules that restrict their ability to establish additional privacy safeguards.
While some have questioned the concerns associated with privacy and the TPP by arguing that it is it a trade agreement, not a privacy treaty, the reality is that the commercial importance of big data has never been greater. Indeed, it is odd to see some emphasize the importance of increased, harmonized intellectual property protections but simultaneously express satisfaction with bare minimum privacy protections that provide companies with a patchwork of rules and consumers without standardized protections. Personal information is a critical part of e-commerce and the need for public confidence in privacy protections alongside corporate certainty about their rights and obligations with the personal information they collect should be beyond debate.
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The Trouble with the TPP series continues with a surprising and troubling aspect of the intellectual property chapter: the criminalization of trade secret law (prior posts include Day 1: US Blocks Balancing Provisions, Day 2: Locking in Digital Locks, Day 3: Copyright Term Extension, Day 4: Copyright Notice and Takedown Rules, Day 5: Rights Holders “Shall” vs. Users “May”, Day 6: Price of Entry, Day 7: Patent Term Extensions, Day 8: Locking in Biologics Protection, Day 9: Limits on Medical Devices and Pharma Data Collection). The trade secret issue was flagged by Professor Dan Breznitz of the Munk School of Global Affairs in a column in the Globe and Mail late last year. While some have tried to downplay the issue, the reality is that the TPP represents a radical shift on trade secrets law for most participating countries, who can expect years of pressure to gradually expand the scope of criminal penalties for trade secret violations.
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