Despite protests from civil society organizations, but with applause from the entertainment lobby, Canada announced on October 9th that it has officially joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations. Canada joins the TPP not as an equal partner in the agreement but as a “second-tier” negotiator, which means it will have far less input into the agreement than the countries currently negotiating. Some Canadian politicians did find some of the conditions imposed by the USA and other countries unpalatable, but nobody offered any real details as to why.
As a second-tier partner, Canada will have to sign onto sections negotiated over 14 rounds of talks- without seeing the text in advance. Canada’s participation in the TPP talks will begin with the 15th round of negotiations, which take place December 3 – 12, 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand.
In joining the TPP negotiations Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, commented:
“Canada is pleased to be formally joining the TPP negotiations (…) Joining the TPP is good news for hard-working Canadian families. Opening new markets and increasing Canadian exports to fast-growing markets throughout the Asia-Pacific region is a key part of our government’s plan to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. We look forward to helping develop a 21st-century agreement that advances Canadian interests.”
The TPP is a trade agreement, under negotiation by 11 countries. Canada’s formal entry into the negotiations follows the completion of domestic consultations within other negotiator countries, which all TPP members are required to undertake before approving new members.
In less than six years, the Harper government in Canada has concluded trade agreements with nine countries: Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, Panama, Peru, and the European Free Trade Association member states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Canada has also begun deepening trade and investment ties with the largest markets in the world, including the European Union—through a revival of ACTA, named CETA—as well India and Japan.
Canadians – and all of us – should be highly attentive to this step. It took Canada more than ten years of contentious debate to pass Bill C-11 into its new copyright law just last June. Yet, as reported by Michael Geist, the copyright lobby that pressured the government into passing this bill, which imposes rules on digital locks and tougher penalties for copyright infringement, is already demanding changes that include rolling back many key provisions of the original bill. For the entertainment lobby, TPP offers the perfect opportunity to push their copyright interests, because the agreement feeds into the aggressive trade agenda of some Canadian politicians.
For instance, regarding Internet intermediaries, the copyright lobby wants Canada to implement measures that would require Internet providers "to take action to prevent recidivists from repeatedly using their services to commit copyright infringement." The plain language demand: a termination system that would cut off Internet access for subscribers accused of infringement. Yes, similar to a 3-strike provision. In an interview with EFF, Michael Geist commented:
“If the TPP were to adopt a three-strikes approach, this would run completely counter to current Canadian law and repeated assurances from the Canadian government that it does not believe such an approach strikes the right balance in copyright. The recent Canadian copyright reforms adopted a notice-and-notice approach—which many believe does a better job of preserving free speech online than the US notice-and-takedown system. Despite consistent pressure from rights holders to add a penalty element to notice-and-notice that could include account termination, the government repeatedly insisted that it had no plans for Internet termination. If the TPP were to impose such an approach, it would undo much of the balance the government tried to strike during the most recent round of reforms.”
The entertainment lobby is also pressuring Canadian officials to undo statutory damages changes from Bill C-11 that created a liability cap of $5,000 for non-commercial infringement. The lobby claims that the non-commercial cap renders statutory damages "ineffective in achieving its goals of full compensation and deterrence in the online environment." It also wants to extend the term of copyright , to provide new powers to Canadian border guards to inspect shipments without court oversight, and to introduce new criminal penalties for copyright and trademark violations.
Canada is internationally known for protecting the rights of its citizens, and for promoting due process under the law. Its joining TPP is a depressing step backwards.
Over 26,000 people have now taken our action alert aimed at US Congressional members. And these latest moves from state representations show that they are finally hearing our voices. Help us keep the pressure on Congress and get them to demand that this process become democratic and transparent.
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