San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and an international coalition of groups representing Internet users, consumers, and scholars are calling for reform of the negotiation of global trade agreements in order to protect Internet and other digital rights for communities around the world.

The “Brussels Declaration on Trade and the Internet” was signed by 20 groups and individuals concerned about secretive and closed trade negotiations, like the ones that were behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP).  The TPP is now awaiting ratification from 12 countries but was under development for seven years before the completed text was released for the public to see. However, advisors for big corporations were allowed to view and comment on draft texts. As a result, TPP includes restrictive copyright enforcement regulations that will hurt free expression, innovation, and privacy on the Internet and elsewhere.

“We need an international trading system that is fair, sustainable, democratic, and accountable,” said EFF Global Policy Analyst Jeremy Malcolm. “But you can only achieve that result through public participation. The secrecy we’ve seen in the TPP and similar agreements locks out important views from the global digital rights community and other experts. That’s insight we need to make sure we are protecting rights for everyone around the world.”

The declaration makes six specific recommendations for countries participating in global trade agreements, including regular releases of draft proposals, ample opportunity for public comment and feedback, and engagement of organizations and experts representing Internet users and consumers.

“Digital policy must be shaped through open and participatory means,” said Steve Anderson from OpenMedia. “If trade agreements are going to impact Internet governance they must ensure effective participation from experts and the public.”

“Trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are shaping complex aspects of Internet policy but Internet users have no insight into the negotiations," says Denelle Dixon-Thayer, Mozilla’s Chief Legal and Business Officer. "At Mozilla, we believe that when policy is not developed in the open, users lose as a result. We want to change that.”

The Brussels Declaration on Trade and the Internet stems from a meeting in Belgium earlier this year on catalyzing reform of trade negotiation processes. Experts from four continents took part.

For the Brussels Declaration on Trade and the Internet:

For more on the declaration and its importance: