In a new blog post, Sandra Fulton, a member of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, describes the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement as the "biggest threat to free speech and intellectual property that you’ve never heard of." Fulton makes a good point because U.S. trade Representatives negotiating the treaty and other countries are doing a hell of a job keeping the details of this trade treaty a big secret.
She calls it another "threat to free speech in guise of IP reform" that follows the formula of similar treaties like ACTA and laws like SOPA and PIPA: "poorly constructed, hastily proposed and ultimately both ineffective and potentially abusive."
The blog post mostly highlights the secrecy of the negotiations and the unwillingness of the USTR to disclose information or provide experts from its offices to speak to lawmakers, who are supposed to have oversight on treaties and international trade agreements. Here is a bit from Senator Ron Wyden (D-ORE.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee's international trade subcommittee:
"[M]y office is responsible for conducting oversight over the USTR and trade negotiations. To do that, I asked that my staff obtain the proper security credentials to view the information that USTR keeps confidential and secret. This is material that fully describes what the USTR is seeking in the TPP talks on behalf of the American people and on behalf of Congress. More than two months after receiving the proper security credentials, my staff is still barred from viewing the details of the proposals that USTR is advancing."
Later the USTR did provide Wyden some documents related to the ongoing negotiations but would not provide access to a USTR staffer to explain some of the details and positions being pushed by the USTR. Wyden goes on to say that stakeholders seem to have more access than lawmakers or rights groups:
"The majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations – like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America – are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement."
The post emphasizes what's truly wrong with Washington – that laws and treaties are being written by trade groups and corporations without asking for or even considering the concerns of the general public when it comes to intellectual property enforcement, free speech, fair use, and other paramount issues.
You can read the entire post here.