As Techdirt noted back in November, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement was not killed by Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the deal. Instead, something rather interesting happened: one of the TPP’s worst chapters, dealing with copyright, was “suspended” at the insistence of the Canadian government, which suddenly took on a leading role. At the time, it wasn’t clear whether this was merely a temporary ploy, or was permanent. With news that the clumsily-named “Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership” (CPTPP) has been “concluded”, it now seems that the exclusion of both copyright and pharma patent extensions is confirmed. As Michael Geist writes:
the IP chapter largely reflected U.S. demands and with its exit from the TPP, an overhaul that more closely aligns the agreement to international standards was needed. Canada succeeded on that front with an agreement to suspend most of the controversial IP provisions including those involving copyright term, patent extension, biologics protection, and digital lock rules.
That’s the good news. But there’s still plenty of bad stuff in the CPTPP, a sample of which is listed here by The Atlantic:
A controversial arrangement whereby companies can sue countries over their domestic laws, known as the investor-state dispute settlement [ISDS — corporate sovereignty] system, remains in a reduced fashion. Labor and environmental protections are largely unchanged [and unsatisfactory]. The EFF’s [Jeremy] Malcolm pointed to e-commerce provisions that provide only weak privacy protections, among other issues, as still being problematic. But overall, the new deal is so similar to the original that Canadian labor unions are furious that their government is still advancing it, just as labor groups in the U.S. objected under Obama.
That anger means that even in the absence of the copyright and pharma patent extensions, there is still likely to be some resistance to the new deal, and not just in Canada. For example, economists estimate that the CPTPP will boost Australia’s economy by only 0.04% per year — a negligible amount that will be swamped by fluctuations in other factors. Some Australian businesses warn that the continuing existence of bilateral trade deals with eight of the CPTPP countries will lead to a complex “noodle bowl” of rules and regulations that could make it harder, not easier, to conduct business with them. In New Zealand, a long-standing critic of TPP, Professor Jane Kelsey, is particularly worried about a chapter on electronic commerce. And in Malaysia, a consumer group has urged the government there not to sign the deal, which it said would be “even worse” than TPP for the country.
Although we still don’t have the final details of the deal, and the lingering presence of corporate sovereignty is regrettable, the CPTPP signals a hopeful shift away from the usual intellectual monopoly maximalism. The omission of copyright and patents from the new deal is a significant defeat for the US, which has been the main driving force behind their routine inclusion. And the fact that the CPTPP is going ahead at all without the US is a clear snub to Trump and his rejection of such multilateral trade negotiations.
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