Whistleblower website WikiLeaks released on Wednesday text from the secretly-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, showing that the U.S. is carefully aiming at greater control of the Internet in the name of safeguarding intellectual property rights.
Reacting to excerpts of the deal provided to The Sydney Morning Herald, an expert on intellectual property law called it "a Christmas wish-list for major corporations."
Consumer advocates have taken issue with the fact that the TPP, currently being negotiated by 12 Pacific-rim nations, has been constructed largely in secret, with invitations given to corporate stakeholders while the public watchdogs have been kept out.
Advocates have been particularly worried about the treaty's intellectual property chapter, previous drafts of which have included provisions that would disconnect Internet users based upon specious allegations of piracy. While the draft chapter released Wednesday by WikiLeaks does not include a so-called "three strikes" disconnection policy, it does show that criminal penalties for illegal downloads are being discussed.
"If instituted, the TPP's IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons," WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in prepared text. "If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you're ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs."
The trade deal would also establish tribunals that exist outside of the state framework, designed to settle trade disputes between multinational corporations based upon secret evidence -- and the power to order national courts to comply with their rulings. WikiLeaks also warned that parts of the deal would make pharmaceutical drugs more expensive in nations where generic drugs are more commonplace today.
Despite opposition to the treaty in the U.S., the TPP will not be debated by Congress because the Obama administration has determined that it does not make any changes to current U.S. law, and instead extends U.S. law to other nations willing to make concessions in order to have a closer trade relationship.
The Obama administration announced this week that the TPP is being fast-tracked, with the goal of getting stakeholder countries to sign on before the end of the year. Negotiators are meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah later this month in an effort to close out the process.
Photo: Flickr user Espen Moe, creative commons licensed.