The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted in favor of a resolution today urging the district's congressional representatives to oppose Fast Track legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Supervisor John Avalos put forth the resolution, which expresses concerns about the secret trade agreement's provisions that would impact the free and open Internet, among a host of other threats to the public interest.
This comes at a critical time, as lawmakers introduced a new Fast Track (aka trade promotion authority) bill last week to limit Congress' constitutionally-mandated authority over the White House's trade policies. Fast Track would restrict Congress to a yea-or-nay vote to pass the TPP with limited debate, and it would even prevent them from amending the final contents of the deal.
San Francisco is a city that has long been committed to government transparency, and the utter secrecy of deals like the TPP flies in the face of those values. The Board of Supervisors (which also serves as our city council) passed the Sunshine Ordinance almost 15 years ago to protect openness of the government's workings. "Public officials who attempt to conduct the public's business in secret should be held accountable for their actions," the law reads. And of course, the same must also be true of binding international deals, especially those that threaten to constrain federal and state lawmakers from passing rules in the public interest. The back-room meetings that have led to the TPP's harmful provisions should be seen as particularly offensive to a city that itself upholds transparency in government.
As a result of this secrecy, the TPP has come to include a wide-range of threats to our free speech, privacy, and ability to innovate in the 21st century. The most recent leak also revealed threats to whistleblowers and journalists who report on corporate wrongdoing. Civil society organizations across the country have raised variety of other concerns around the agreement's dangers to the environment and public health. The U.S. Trade Representative has however, continued to ignore our collective calls to release the text and enable public participation. Instead the trade agency has allowed corporate industry representatives to see, comment, and influence the outcome of this agreement. These same private interests are now pressuring Congress to pass legislation that would restrict lawmakers' own power to oversee the White House's trade policy.
This Resolution has the potential to influence the course of this massive secret trade deal by prompting San Francisco's representatives to take a strong stance against undemocratic trade deals. As House Minority Leader, San Francisco's Representative Nancy Pelosi is in a particularly influential position to determine their fate. Rep. Pelosi has been an outspoken champion for the free and open Internet, and was a proven leader in the fight for net neutrality. While she has been cautiously supportive of the TPP, she may change her tune if she were to hear from her constituents that the deal also puts the Internet and digital innovations at risk from oppressive regulations. If she comes out against Fast Track, that would be a strong signal for other House Democrats to follow her lead.
Whether or not you live in San Francisco, you can take action by getting in touch with your congressional representatives and letting them know that we're counting on them to defend the Internet from the White House's secret, anti-user deals.
If you're on Twitter, help us call on influential members of Congress to come out against this bill.
Read about all of our concerns with the TPP agreement:
- Anti-Circumvention of Digital Rights Management (DRM)
- Criminalization of Investigative Journalism, Security Research, and Whistleblowing
- ISP Liability: Internet Intermediaries as Copyright Cops
- Criminal Copyright Enforcement
- Expansion of Copyright Terms
- "Investor-State" Provisions Could Undermine User Protections in Copyright
- Restrictions on Fair Use