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Scary Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty signed off

Now to get it through a dozen legislatures ...

The Trans-Pacific partnership, a 12-nation trade treaty negotiated in secret and thought to contain copyright nasties, is all but done.

Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the USA and Vietnam have successfully concluded negotiations on the provisions of the secret treaty. All that remains is to finalise the wording and for the signatory nations to to sign it off in their respective legislatures.

And there's the rub: because the treaty has been negotiated in secret, even legislators are ignorant of its contents. So while US president Obama is hailing the deal as removing 18,000 import tariffs, and therefore opening markets to US products, others worry that leaked drafts suggest internet service providers in signatory countries will be forced into assisting authorities with copyright theft investigations, or lose any immunity. The treaty is also thought to extend copyright, thereby making it harder for works to enter the public domain.

Throw in the fact that industry has been involved in drafting and negotiating the treaty, but legislators have not, and we have a situation in which the Electronic Frontier Foundation says users have been “betrayed” by their governments. Throw in the fact that legislators in would-be signatory nations have expressed concern with the treaty, and acknowledged protesting citizens' concerns, and the TPP remains a fair distance from coming into force. That some of the treaty's most vocal opponents are US Republicans doesn't help matters: aside from their objections to the exclusion of tobacco and pharmaceuticals, the GOP has scant interest in helping president Obama to chalk up any significant achievements in the remaining months of his presidency.

One ray of sunshine is that the text of the treaty will soon be released. Readers beyond the TPP area will do well to consider that text: negotiations on sibling treaty the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are ongoing, but are felt to have many of the same aims as the TPP. ®

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