Archive for the ‘Trade’ Category

James Cormie is a legal intern at Global Access to Medicine. He blogs on issues of trade, IP, and international law. He is originally from Edmonton, Alberta.

Dear Fellow Canadians:

Welcome to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations! Fresh off a bruising fight getting provisions that protect internet freedom and privacy into Canada’s copyright Bill C-11, I’m sure that you are exhausted with defending your rights. Take heart. With the TPP you will not have much of a say on laws or policies threatening your privacy, rights on the internet and access to affordable medicines. Instead, lobbyists from major American industries and some 600 “corporate trade advisors” have helped lay out some of what the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) expects from you.

These are the same industries that forced major concessions on C-11’s approach to digital locks despite near-universal criticism. Hundreds of pages of new non-trade policy contained in the most sweeping “free trade agreement.”  The USTR proposes intellectual property provisions that cover dramatically more than copyright law. They touch a wide range of IP issues.  And you thought NAFTA was a pill? Sure, Big PhRMA used NAFTA to attack our drug formulary system and all of those compulsory licenses for affordable meds. But back then, our government drew a line.  Despite some considerable hysteria from the U.S. drug industry giants, did not give away all of our policy space. This time, however, TPP gives PM Harper a way to write all of us a real prescription for high drug prices and cement his view of Canada as an extended playground for corporate America.

Here are some of the highlights of the US proposed IP chapter:

• Expand patent evergreening and create new pharmaceutical monopolies, raising medicine costs
• Dramatically increase the life of a copyright term from 50 years in most cases under C-11 to 95 years
• Increase penalties for circumvention and reduce the exceptions for individuals
• Establish an American-style notice-and-take down system for online copyright infringement

This seems like a lot. If you were worried, however, that we had some duty to at least read the proposals for the law and voice our democratic concern—fear not. Negotiators act in secret. The only glimpse of the actual agreement so far has come from leaked copies of the text from the IP, Investment, and other chapters. Remember in the good old days of ACTA when the University of Ottawa filed an access to information request but received a blacked out document with only the title? Expect similar treatment during TPP negotiations. While lobbyists and corporate liaisons are granted electronic access to the agreement, your parliamentary representative might have to walk down to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to speak personally with The Honourable David Johnston, Minister of International Trade.

Moreover, if you are distressed by the fact that our respectable Department of Trade will have lots of work reviewing all the work done so far once Canada’s negotiators get hold of these secret drafts, you will be relieved to hear that Canada has a lesser role in the negotiations. By coming late to the table, Canada has achieved a 2nd tier position. This status requires Canada to agree to all the settled chapters, which they have not even read, and Canada cannot veto current provisions. Thus, not even lobbyists or the Trade Minister need concern themselves with settled provisions. The TPP negotiations shut individual citizens and even members of parliament and ministers out of the process.

The public response to C-11 proved that civil engagement has made a difference on intellectual property issues in Canada. The people, frustrated, fearful, and bedraggled, woke up to the oppressive measures of industry groups and fought hard. But this is far from the end. In upcoming years, we might still witness the implementation of a multinational corporations’ wish list, which seeks to criminalize copyright infringement, implement ACTA-plus provisions, and restrict Canadians’ access to affordable medicines. Through the TPP, USTR seeks to achieve all these goals and more—without too much of a voice from us. Will we allow American industry to dictate to the Canadian people our rights – or stand up and demand that Canada step down from these negotiations?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jtsgDBL7Mc]

This is Jessica, an intern in Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division. She and the crew over there did this video to show how easy it is to set up an offshore tax shelter. The answer to that questions after a couple calls to attorneys in Panama? Easy. Very easy. Yes, the conversation in the video is real. No, she didn’t actually set the corporation up. But she could have and that’s one of the arguments against a NAFTA-type expansion to Panama. Read more about the issues at our sister blog, Eyes on Trade.

From Todd Tucker @ Eyes on Trade: Outrage over Bush giving paramilitary-linked Colombian President Alvaro Uribe [the Medal of Freedom] is spreading, and for good reason. When your country’s leader awards its highest civilian honor to a man linked to the murder of unionists and human rights activists and presides over the worst human rights abuses and deepening humanitarian disaster in the hemisphere, outrage is beyond appropriate, it’s required.

MSNBC asked Lori [Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division] on their 1600 Pennsylvania Ave show last night to examine the audacity of this hypocritical doublespeak.

To read the rest of this post and to see the video clip of Wallach on MSNBC, go to Eyes on Trade.

From Todd Tucker @ Eyes on Trade: Longtime readers will recall that we challenged the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to a data duel back in the fall. We scored two points to their one, and we promised we’d be back with even more nerdliness.

Now, the Dark Side has challenged us to a final duel, courtesy of a new report touting CAFTA. It arrives just in time for the January 1 implementation of CAFTA for Costa Rica, where nearly half of the voters rejected the pact in an unprecedented referendum, and the other half were scared to within an inch of their life by false Bush administration threats.

This time has arrived, fearless nomads, for the fair-trade force to strike back. The Chamber’s main argument is that U.S. exports have increased under CAFTA. This is true, but of course it is also the normal course of affairs. Barring unusual circumstances, U.S. exports increase with foreign income growth. Continue Reading »

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