Concerns over the secrecy and substance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations prompted 32 leading American legal scholars to send a letter to the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) demanding transparency in the process.
Released just prior to scheduled TPP talks in Dallas, Texas in mid-May, the letter demanded broader consultations with civil society and the immediate release of “reports on US positions and proposals on intellectual property matters that are currently given only to Industry Trade Advisory Committee members under confidentiality agreements.” The legal experts argued that leaked negotiating proposals indicate the U.S. is adopting a “manifestly unbalanced“ approach to intellectual property rules in the TPP that, “predominantly proposes increases in proprietor rights, with no effort to expand the limitations and exceptions to such rights that are needed in the U.S. and abroad to serve the public interest.” “The unbalanced product results from an unbalanced process,” the letter states. “The only private individuals in the US who have ongoing access to the US proposals on intellectual property matters are on an Industry Trade Advisory Committee (ITAC) which is dominated by brand name pharmaceutical manufacturers and the Hollywood entertainment industry. There is no representation on this committee for consumers, libraries, students, health advocacy or patient groups, or others users of intellectual property.” The leaked U.S. proposals on intellectual property include many detailed requirements that are more restrictive than current international standards, and would require significant changes to copyright law in many countries. These include obligations to extend copyright terms beyond international standards, prohibitions on the temporary reproduction of copyrighted works, and requirements banning the circumvention of “digital locks” even when no copyright infringement is involved. Critics say this will make it difficult and costly for students, teachers and the public to access information and material that is now freely available in the public domain. The nine nations currently negotiating the TPP are the United States, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam. Negotiators say they expect to have a final draft agreement ready by the end of 2012.