Tag Archives: fast track

TPP Trade Ministers Announce Agreement

On October 5, 2015, the twelve trade ministers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement announced that an agreement had been reached after five years of negotiations.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is a large, comprehensive regional trade agreement in Asia and the Pacific between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States.

The press conference announcing a deal had originally been scheduled for Saturday, October 3, before being delayed several times through Sunday reportedly over obstacles concerning agreements on provisions regarding dairy and protections for “biologic” pharmaceutical products.

The New York Times reported that the text of the final agreement will not be made available for another month.  No official release of any of the text of the TPP has been released to date, though there have been several leaks of various chapters including the Intellectual Property Chapter.  It is disappointing that the lack of transparency continued throughout the negotiations, depriving the public of meaningful opportunity to discuss and debate the TPP on the merits of the texts.

While, based on the various leaks of texts, the copyright provisions and general intellectual property provisions have seen improvements since the United States’ initial proposal was leaked in 2011, there are still several areas of concern including around copyright term (no details regarding the agreed to term have been released as of yet, but the most recent leak revealed discussions over copyright terms of life plus 50, 70 or 100 years) and technological protection measures.  Additionally, while the agreement contains positive language regarding limitations and exceptions, this language appears to be permissive rather than mandatory, in contrast with the provisions granting rights to rightsholders.  (For more, based on the August 2015 leak, see this blog post.)

The final language of the TPP will soon be concluded and each country will then need to go through its own domestic processes to pass the agreement.  In the United States, the TPP will go through the “fast track” authority passed by Congress earlier this year, which includes a 90 day waiting period after the Obama Administration sends the TPP to Congress for approval.  Depending on when the TPP — which has been a controversial issue — is sent to Congress, a vote could come during the height of the United States’ election season.  Canada is currently holding its elections, set for October 19, 2015.  The new Parliament in Canada, once in place, will debate the TPP and vote on the agreement.  Other parties in the agreement will also hold elections over the next year, which could impact both the timing of any final approval as well as substantive debate of the TPP in these countries.

Senate to Move Ahead with Vote on Fast-Track Legislation

On June 23, 2015, the U.S. Senate cleared the procedural hurdle of attaining 60 votes on a motion for cloture to move ahead with a vote on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as “fast-track” legislation.  Under “fast-track,” Congress grants the President the authority to sign trade agreements and Congress can only approve or reject these agreements in a straight up-down vote, meaning that it must take the agreement as a complete package and cannot amend the agreement.  As noted in a February 5, 2015 letter from the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), fast-track authority limits Congress’ ability to meaningfully weigh in on an agreement, particularly given the lack of transparency in trade negotiations.  Notably, no trade agreement presented to Congress under fast-track legislation has ever been rejected.  TPA has been seen as critical in concluding negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a large regional trade agreement that currently has twelve negotiating parties.

Today, the Senate voted 60-37 to proceed with a vote on TPA.  While the Senate had passed TPA in an earlier vote in May, that bill packaged fast-track legislation with Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), legislation that reduces the negative impacts of imports on certain sectors in the U.S.  On June 12, 2015, the House of Representatives took separate votes on TPA and TAA, voting to pass the TPA portion of the bundled package by a vote of 219-211 but rejecting TAA by 302 to 126.  The House then voted to separate the package and passed TPA in a standalone bill on June 18, with the intention of scheduling a vote on TAA at a later date.  Because the Senate had packaged TPA and TAA, the TPA went back to the Senate.  Although some critics expressed concerns over the separation of the two bills and suggested that TPA could not pass without TAA, the Senate reached its 60 vote threshold to move ahead with the vote which will likely occur later this week.

 

 

Coalition Opposes Fast Track Authority for Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)

On Monday, March 23, 2015, 20 organizations, including the American Library Association, the Association of College & Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries, sent a letter to Congress opposing “fast-track” authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) due to the lack of transparency in the negotiations.  The letter urges Congress to ensure that any fast-track authority include significantly improved transparency mechanisms, including calling for a release of the negotiating text.

Although organizations have previously urged the release of the texts as a critical transparency measure, the letter notes:

Unfortunately, more than three years later, this practice has not been adopted in the context of TPP . . . talks. Indeed, the talks have gone even further underground.  Even the already insufficient process of formal stakeholder engagement at the negotiating rounds has not occurred since August of 2013, despite at least eight chief negotiators’ meetings, 16 intersessional meetings, fur ministerial-level meetings and multiple attempts to conclude the talks.  Now the need to release the text is even more urgent.

The letter also notes that

The subject matter now being negotiated extends significantly beyond tariffs and other traditional trade matters. As the United States will be obliged to bring existing and future domestic policies into compliance with the international norms established in the pact, this process would establish policies binding on future U.S. Congresses and state legislatures on numerous non-trade subjects currently under the jurisdiction of these domestic legislative bodies.

Transparency is paramount for democratic participation and process, as noted in the Library Copyright Alliance’s February 5, 2015 letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Wyden (D-OR).  The letter pointed out the importance of transparency in trade negotiations and opposed fast-track authority in the TPP with respect to the intellectual property chapter, or in the alternative, language that ensures balance in the intellectual property provisions.

Library Copyright Alliance Expresses Concerns Over “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority

On February 5, 2015, ARL, together with ALA and ACRL, sent a letter to Senators Hatch (R-UT) and Wyden (D-VT) expressing concerns over “fast track” trade promotion authority.  Under “fast track,” Congress grants the President authority to sign trade agreements and Congress is only able to approve or reject the agreement in a straight up-down vote, meaning that it cannot amend this agreement.  Such a process limits Congress’ ability to meaningfully weigh in on the agreement.

Using the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) as an example, the letter highlights the inequities surrounding access to information about the substance of the agreements.  While the negotiations are conducted in secrecy and the general public is not permitted to see text, cleared advisors are permitted to view proposals and make substantive comments through “trade advisory committees.”  Members of the intellectual property trade advisory committee represent large corporate interests; current members include, for example, representatives from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC).  Past representatives include Time Warner, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).  While these corporate interests are well represented, the general public has had to rely on leaks in order to view text.  The letter points out, “Policy should not be made in secret, with the general public kept in the dark about what effects the agreement will have.”

The letter also notes concerns that the comprehensive intellectual property chapter included in the TPP could contain provision requiring changes to current law, or locking-in undesirable provisions of U.S. law which would make it difficult to amend the law without violating the agreement.  One such harmful provision is the U.S. copyright term of life plus seventy years, which was recently reported as the term of protection TPP negotiators have agreed to.  This lengthy term has been problematic, contributing to the orphan works problem and hampering the public domain.

The letter concludes:

Given the impacts that agreements like the TPP and TTIP will have, Congress should ensure that it does not delegate its authority to the Executive Branch. Congress must be an active participant in reviewing these agreements before accepting their content and should not grant fast track authority, at least with respect to intellectual property provisions in these agreements. Alternatively, if legislation on fast track does include language on intellectual property, this language must protect the careful balance that exists in US law. Libraries, and the vast public we serve, depend on a balanced copyright system, including important limitations and exceptions such as fair use and the first sale doctrine. Any language granting fast track authority implicating intellectual property must recognize the importance of limitations and exceptions.