EFA joins the Australian Digital Alliance, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET), Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), Australian Libraries Copyright Committee (ALCC), the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) and 42 other civil society groups and experts from around the world to call on trade ministers of countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to publish the current draft of the agreement, as well as all nations' negotiating positions. The TPP has been negotiated in secret for the last five years. But we know from several leaks of its Intellectual Property chapter that it contains various provisions that pose wide-ranging threats to users' rights to free speech and privacy online.
This letter follows the European Commission's recent announcement to make EU-US trade negotiations over the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) more transparent — committing themselves to release the EU's negotiating texts and to give access to all TTIP texts to members of the European Parliament. The EU Commission's decision came amidst growing pressure from the public over the secrecy of its trade talks with the US. EU officials have become particularly cautious about facing popular resistance to TTIP, following massive protests across the region against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) two years ago. These public demonstrations led to the agreement's eventual defeat when the European Parliament rejected its ratification.
We have joined this international public-interest coalition to urge TPP trade ministers to follow Europe's example, and embark on a new era of transparency and openness in trade negotiations. We present this letter as the US Trade Representative seeks to conclude the Pacific trade deal in the coming months, and as President Obama works with some Congressional leaders to pass a fast track trade bill that would hand Congress' constitutionally-mandated authority over trade policy to the Executive branch. Under such a law, Congress members would have extremely limited powers to debate or amend the terms of this secretive international deal. As TPP seems to arrive at its final stage, this is a prime moment for trade ministers to stop the secrecy and re-commit themselves to democratic principles of transparency and public participation in rule making.
Among the organisations that have joined us in signing this letter include Consumers International, Creative Commons, and OpenMedia International who will be handing it over to negotiators in person this week during the latest round of negotiations taking place in Washington DC.
The text of the letter (PDF) is available below:
Dear TPP Ministers and Heads of Delegation,
Ever since talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) began over five years ago, there have been broad public calls on leaders to make negotiations more transparent and open to the public. In statements, in letters, and in face-to-face meetings with trade representatives, we have urged the adoption of concrete practices that would better enable the kind of open debate and oversight that would help demystify these ongoing negotiations by making better, more accurate information available to the public.
The European Commission has recently taken leadership on this issue in the parallel context of negotiations over a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), recommending on 25 November 2014 that the EU's TTIP text proposals henceforth be released to the public, and that other information related to TTIP be shared more broadly with all Members of the European Parliament, beyond the currently limited membership of the International Trade Committee (reference: http://ec.europa.eu/news/2014/docs/c_2014_9052_en.pdf).
The end of TPP negotiations now seems to be coming into focus. They have come down to high-level political decisions by negotiating countries, and the text is largely completed except for some resolutions on remaining landing zones. At this point, we know that there is a draft of the TPP that is mostly agreed upon by those negotiating the deal.
Today, we strongly urge you to release the unbracketed text and to release the negotiating positions for text that is bracketed, now and going forwards as any future proposals are made. The public has a legitimate interest in knowing what has already been decided on its behalf, and what is now at stake with our various countries' positions on these controversial regulatory issues.
We call on you to consider the recent announcement from the European Commission as a welcome precedent to follow, thereby re-affirming your commitment to fundamental principles of transparency and public participation in rule making. The negotiations in Washington DC this week would provide the perfect opportunity for such a ground-breaking accord to be announced.
Australia: Australian Digital Alliance | Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network | Australian Library & Information Association | Australian Libraries Copyright Committee | Public Health Association of Australia
Canada: Council of Canadians | Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (Réseau juridique canadien VIH/sida) | OpenMedia International
Chile: ONG Derechos Digitales | Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios de Chile
Japan: Movements of Internet Active Users | Creative Commons Japan | thinkC
New Zealand: Consumer NZ | Its Our Future NZ
Malaysia: Blindspot | EcoKnights | Malaysian AIDS Council | Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group
Mexico, Chile, Peru: International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (Regional Office for Latin American and Carribean Networks) | Alianza LAC - Global por el Acceso a Medicamentos
Peru: HiperderechoPeruvian Association of Consumers and User | Acción Internacional para la Salud
USA: Action on Smoking & Health | American Library Association | Electronic Frontier Foundation | Fight For the Future | Food & Water Watch | Government Accountability Project | Health GAP | Just Foreign Policy | Knowledge Ecology International | National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices | Public Knowledge | Sunlight Foundation | Association of Research Libraries
International: Article 19 | Consumers International | Creative Commons | Oxfam International | SumOfUs
Academics: Gabriel J. Michael, Yale Law School | Pam Samuelson, Berkeley Law School | Susan Sell, George Washington University | Sean Flynn, American University | David Levine, Princeton University