Seven leading US digital rights and access to knowledge groups, and over 7,550 users, have called on Sen. Wyden today to oppose any new version of Fast Track (aka trade promotion authority) that does not fix the secretive, corporate-dominated process of trade negotiations. In particular, we urge him to stand strong against any proposed Fast Track bill that allows the White House to move forward with anti-user agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in complete secrecy, while constraining Congress' Constitutional mandate to oversee US trade policy. We fear that that the passage of this bill will mean the public has even less opportunity to influence the outcome of these and other ongoing trade deals with extreme copyright and other digital policies.
This letter reiterates our message to him last fall, when we delivered the petition to Sen. Wyden's office in DC. The organizations that have signed on to this new letter are Creative Commons, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Internet Archive, Knowledge Ecology International, New Media Rights, OpenMedia International, and Public Knowledge.
Sen. Ron Wyden holds significant influence on how this version of Fast Track will look because he now sits as the Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee. His colleague, and Chair of the Committee, Sen. Orrin Hatch, introduced the bill that was defeated last year. Sen. Hatch is determined to pass a new version with superficial fixes that do nothing to address the secrecy or the private-industry-dominated process. That's why we have had a petition directed at Sen. Wyden, calling on him to resist these weak compromises. As a long-time defender of digital rights and an outspoken critic of TPP's secrecy, we need to let him know that we're counting on him to stand up for Internet users at this critical time.
The text of the letter (PDF) is below:
January 27, 2015
Dear Sen. Wyden,
Digital rights groups have a stake in the debate around the renewal of Fast Track (AKA trade promotion authority [TPA]), which hands Congress' Constitutionally-mandated power over trade policy to the President. We have serious concerns given that such authority may be used to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and other trade deals that carry provisions threatening Internet freedom and the digital rights of users without full Congressional input.
As a prominent leader in Congress who has long-defended the digital rights of Americans, we need you to stand up against weak compromises and amendments to TPA that do not fully address the glaring lack of transparency and democratic oversight in trade negotiations, and apply retroactively to current negotiations including TTIP and TPP. You once said, "It was our Founding Fathers’ intention to ensure that the laws and policies that govern the American people take into account the interests of all the American people, not just a privileged few."
We agree. Agreements like TPP have been negotiated in secret, with overwhelming influence from Hollywood and other powerful, entrenched industries. This has led to regulatory requirements that could not only pave the way for more extreme regulations, but also prevent the US from reforming and updating its laws to new digital realities in the coming decades.
EFF's petition is addressed to you and is signed by over 7,550 concerned users. The letter calls on you ensure that TPA includes the following fixes to the secret trade negotiation process:
- Easy, ongoing access to negotiating texts by all Congress members and their staff with proper security clearance and timely public release of concluded provisions following each round of negotiations;
- Ongoing, upto-date publication of detailed summaries of the USTR's specific proposals being submitted in negotiations;
- Regular publication of agendas and transcripts of meetings and of all communications between USTR officials and all stakeholders, including industry groups;
- Mandatory negotiating objectives that balance users' rights with those of private industry, including requirements to enact safeguards for free speech, privacy, and access to knowledge;
- Congressional certification that negotiating objectives have been met before negotiations are concluded with only the pacts that have been so certified qualifying for expedited consideration;
- Congressional approval of trade agreement texts before they can be signed by a president so that Congress explicitly authorizes a president to enter into a pact only after ensuring that an agreement’s contents are acceptable.
Users urge you to stand strong and oppose any new version of trade authority that does not include these critical guarantees of transparency, inclusiveness and accountability. Additionally, the letter specifies that provisions in current trade negotiations must not be considered closed until these transparency and oversight mechanisms have been put in place.
We are counting on you, as a pioneer in the digital rights movement, to oppose any TPA bill that does not truly address these troubling procedural issues.
Please do not support TPA. The Internet is counting on you.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Knowledge Ecology International
New Media Rights
 Signatures from 316 Oregonians, 6785 from other US states, 454 from outside of the US
If and when the bill is on the floor, our next step is to pressure Congress members to oppose it and encourage their colleagues to vote against fast track. Many lawmakers may support the policy in order to not appear to oppose free trade, but these new omnibus trade agreements are about much more than that. They contain provisions that will have huge implications for our digital rights in the generations to come. That's why we'll need to bombard them with messages letting them know about these threats, and to call on them to defend users against secret deals.
Last year, a massive coalition of civil society organizations and individuals banded together to fight back against this undemocratic process and we defeated it. We can do it again this year, but we're going to need all the help we can get.