The first round of talks in what the U.S. and EU trade representatives intend to be the largest bilateral trade agreement ever have begun. The governments call it TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Everyone else calls it TAFTA, the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. Whatever the name, it will regulate all U.S. and EU trade, or around 30 percent of world trade in goods. And according to the first leaks of negotiation documents, it threatens to be yet another trojan horse for copyright and internet issues.
We have been following developments since Pres. Barack Obama announced his intention to create a U.S.-EU agreement at his State of the Union address earlier this year. Now, it seems that our concerns were warranted: a newly leaked document from La Quadrature du Net shows how EU delegates intend to set rules around liability for Internet Service Providers and regulations over the transfer and processing of users’ personal online data, as well as rules to set a “uniform approach” to cyber security across the region. While the document makes no mention of copyright enforcement, other statements lead us to believe that it will also be included.
U.S. and European delegates will negotiate TAFTA secretly, mirroring the same undemocratic processes that led to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, TAFTA’s objective is to address a wide range of cross-border regulatory issues under one overarching agreement. In March, EFF joined 44 other U.S. and EU organizations in calling for transparency in the process and to ask our trade representatives to leave copyright, patent, and trademark issues off of the drafting table.
In light of the recent revelations, La Quadrature du Net says TAFTA is bound to threaten freedoms online:
The precedent of ACTA shows that industries can have tremendous (if not total) influence on the content of such an agreement, and that EU negotiators from the Commission can hardly be trusted to defend general interest […]
The same goes for U.S. negotiators. Lobbyists paid by the concentrated wealth of special interests currently dominate the objectives of our national trade policies—such as Internet companies that would prefer lax privacy controls, or entertainment industry companies pushing for copyright crackdowns. The creators and users of new, decentralized technology, who exercise their right to free speech and association over the Internet, have no voice at the table. This results in agreements, like ACTA or TPP, that uphold the concerns of a few powerful private interests at the expense of the present and future public interest and the civil liberties of Internet users worldwide.
Given how trade delegates have reacted so far over this latest transatlantic agreement, there is no doubt that established corporate interests from both sides of the Atlantic will do the same to influence TAFTA. If the process were open and transparent, we would at least know if and when problematic language was being included in this agreement. Until there are more leaked documents, we can only guess what kinds of specific proposals trade negotiators are developing inside these closed-door meetings.
Last week, European leaders publicly complained that TAFTA was impossible given the revelations that the U.S. spies on its Europe's negotiators. That now looks to have been political bluff. It seems that surveillance by trade partners will continue to be acceptable, as long as the negotiations themselves are concealed from the general public.