back to article POTUS promises Trans Pacific Partnership text

The text of the Trans Pacific Partnership remains secret at the moment, but President Barack Obama intends to present it to the public in November. According to Reuters, POTUS' remarks were made on Friday after discussing the timeline with New Zealand prime minister John Key during a visit to Washington. President Obama is …

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  1. Mitoo Bobsworth
    Stop

    "...that the public can take a look at,.. "

    No say, then? Lawyerspeak at it's finest.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: "...that the public can take a look at,.. "

      To be fair, most Human, not undead, members of the general public simply don't have the resources to glean much of anything useful from the text of international trade agreements, they simply don't live long enough. Very little in those agreements is self contained and to make them meaningful you've got to have exhaustive knowledge of the other agreements and agreed upon interpretations of various clauses which are rarely the same between more than two of the signatories: Clause 57 means (x) between you and I, but it means (y) between you and someone else. Those interpretative understandings are informal and not usually even available for access by the public.

      My point, is that giving the public input into trade agreements would be meaningless as they're simply too far removed from it all. Representative democracy was invented to bridge that gap and we have to trust our elected officials to keep the negotiations headed in a direction that's the best for us. I have absolutely zero confidence in that concept. Those idiots are just as removed as we are, so I just assume that everybody gets fucked in these agreements and go about my business as usual. No point in worrying with it.

      1. dan1980

        Re: "...that the public can take a look at,.. "

        @Don Jefe

        To an extent, yes, but this particular treaty is believed to have some pretty notable effects on privacy and the way copyright and IP law will be managed and enforced.

        There is plenty of mundane trade stuff in there, to be sure, but the parts that are causing disquiet are provisions like:

        • ISPs having to be more active in identifying and banning users whose accounts have been used for copyright infringement by making them (the ISPs) only covered by the Safe Habour clauses if they are actively policing their networks[1].
        • Allowing medical (drug) patents to be extended beyond the usual 20-year period, thus delaying the availability of generic drugs and increasing costs.
        • Restrictions on parallel importation.
        • Criminalisation of non-commercial copyright breaches.
        • Banning re-transmission of TV signals over the Internet.

        In short, many of the provisions are simply there to increase the amount of money that flows into the coffers of giant US companies making their billions from IP. That money will be coming from Australian tax payers who will end up paying more for music, movies, software and, most worryingly, medicine.

        The fact that some of these large US corporations (like Monsanto and Halliburton) have seen the text but the Australian people haven't is amusing.

        So, while I agree that much of what is laid out in these treaties is likely to be complex, I have to respectfully disagree with you that people wouldn't get any insight from reading it. At any rate, there are groups who are able to distill some of the more opaque provisions into information that the people can use to make a decision about whether their government is representing their interests.

        [1] - This is a massive issue as it effectively ignores the High Court ruling in the Roadshow Films/AFACT vs iiNet case, which found that ISPs are not responsible for what their users do over the service. The US content firms that pressed that case are trying to get the laws changed after losing, hence these provisions, inserted into the treaty by the US at the command of the MPAA and associated lobby groups.

        1. Mitoo Bobsworth

          Re: "...that the public can take a look at,.. "

          My main bug is not so much the complexity of such international wranglings, rather the lack of information about what is being wrangled over & by whom. Secrecy enables corruption. So also does an uninformed and, by extension, inattentive public. If these negotiations are going to increase, in any way, the privatisation of wealth from the commons, I think that's an issue of public concern.

        2. Don Jefe
          Happy

          @dan1980

          I realize there are super shitty provisions in the document, they're all full of them. Most trade agreements the US is signatory to pretty much redefine our governments view of the word 'benefit'. To them benefit means they'll lube you up first, but no matter what you do you're going to get fucked. That's what the last paragraph of my initial post was about you know...

          However, that doesn't change my earlier point. Having the text available to the general public is worthless. The depth of precedent in constructing the text is simply staggering and the language absolutely cannot be taken at face value. The only people who know what ancient mechanisms are activated, or not activated, in new agreements are the people doing the negotiation. As I said earlier, that varies between each country and is informal, so the information is never disclosed. You can have all the pre-signing documentation you want and give individuals years to peruse and comment on the document and they'll never make a difference because they won't have all the information: It's too difficult to find and a lot of it simply isn't made available, ever.

          The tactic of making things obscenely complicated as a defense against the proles was invented the very same day Ugh bludgeoned his neighbor to death to claim ownership of The Monolith. It lets government say 'I see your point, but you're oversimplifying. You just don't know what all is involved'. It's true when they say that because they've deliberately obfuscated the information.

          Don't get me wrong, I think it all sucks, but there's fuck all I can do about it. I don't even understand all the rules that govern my export of equipment to England, it's just too complex. The actual export mechanism is about two pages of text but that mechanism is defined and supported by over 1,000 pages of dense diplomaspeak distributed across more than 30 documents and it's all tied to wartime agreements from 194 fucking 4. I've tried to sort it all out several times over the past decade, it's pointless. I must admit to being somewhat of an expert in crafting and deciphering doublespeak and occulting meaning, and this stuff is over my head. All of our work that's affected by international trade agreements is dealt with by a specialist law firm simply because our primary firm doesn't have the expertise. When a really important law firm in Washington DC tells you that government regulation is too complex for them you know you're into some thick shit.

          The simplest things require enormous effort and resources to decipher, and that's for non-controversial issues. You dig into weapons, intellectual property and international policing and you're dealing with a clusterfuck of an information quagmire that has been (well) engineered specifically to be so abstracted as to be absolutely worthless unless you're privy to the information that doesn't require public disclosure.

          So like I said, it's absolutely pointless to worry about or hope to influence. It's all designed that way and you're not going to beat it. You're better off patiently drinking bourbon and waiting to see how it all plays out on the ground, then you can put together plans to move around it all. Until the agreements go into effect you're just guessing at what the words of the agreement mean. I don't like guessing, so I'm not going to waste time and resources doing it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @dan1980

            That doesn't seem to make sense since, under that kind of system, someone can claim an abrogation of the treaty under some obscure interpretation, using that as an excuse to claim a breach, and he can honestly say he doesn't know better since no one puts the treaties in plain text.

            IOW, making treaties overly complicated just invites them being ignored. IOW, if Government says, "You're oversimplifying," they respond, "Since you won't explain it to us, we'll just assume it's ink on a page and no more than that. Ta!" And what's good for Ugh is good for Thugg.

            1. Don Jefe

              Re: @dan1980

              It makes perfect sense and it's why the only people who ever have access to the agreed upon interpretations are the people who are involved in developing those interpretations. The treaty lays out broad elements that apply to everyone, and the signatories work out the caveats, exceptions and qualifications for 'exceptional circumstances' between themselves.

              Those caveats and exceptions are renegotiated all the time to be inline with shifting policy, geopolitical developments and commercial needs. But since those negotiations and their results are informal they do not require public disclosure. If you aren't part of them then you simply don't know. Full stop. The information is not available to others and will never be.

              It's why countries can trade in things that are otherwise prohibited (with exceptions), why the ship with my equipment on it will take 80 days and be subject to entirely different fees in getting to Brazil if it is sailed by a Canadian crew, but 25 days if it's a Japanese crew. All those diplomatic functionaries aren't running around delivering chocolates, they're working out the details of the informal arrangements between treaty signatories. It is not a simple, cut and dried deal when the treaty is signed. That's just the beginning.

              1. dan1980

                Re: @dan1980

                @Don Jefe

                Thanks for the responses. I appreciate your experience in exporting goods to other countries but my main point still stands as it was not about that.

                Just take one provision which has riled up the folks over here: the criminalisation of non-commercial copyright breaches. If you can address that and why it would be governed by the kind of maze of international paperwork you are talking about then that would be helpful. In the end, though, it is about the legal code of a country; it is either a criminal act or it is not.

                Once the text was leaked, there was a big enough fall-out that DFAT put up a simple FAQ on their website addressing some of the main grievances, such as the one above. I am not so naïve that I believe that a couple of lines on a government website means much but what it does mean is that the government - at the least - understands that the people are concerned.

                What comes of that understanding is an entirely different matter but the fate of similar treaties presented to the EU should not be ignored.

                I believe that the massively vested and massively well-funded interests in the US will have their way sooner or later but I equally believe that it is vital that the people make it their business to tell their governments what they think and protest loudly about those things they feel strongly about. Whether it works or not is a different question, of course but that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile.

          2. Graham Marsden
            Coat

            @Don Jefe - Re: @dan1980

            > Ugh bludgeoned his neighbor to death to claim ownership of The Monolith

            That was actually Moonwatcher :-)

            (Mine's the one with the copy of Clarke's "The Lost Worlds of 2001" in the pocket)

  2. RedneckMother

    simplify

    Let me save all of us a bit of trouble.

    It doesn't matter what the text says, the end result is :

    U R FUCKED.

  3. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    We have agreement then.

    You will do as we say.

  4. Christian Berger

    If this was beneficial to the people, they could discuss it in the open.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why wait until mid November?

    Planning to ask congress to vote on it before they leave for Christmas, so the public doesn't have time to digest it and put forth their objections before it is too late, perhaps?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why wait until mid November?

      What are you talking about? The Senate will probably ratify it in October.

    2. Swarthy Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Why wait until mid November?

      Because elections are held November 11th. So the "promise" to share the text mid-Nov (a week after the elections) can be interpreted as either:

      a) "We know that this will piss people off, but don't want to lose the votes; but we think the secrecy concerns could also lose votes. So we are removing the stigma of secrecy, without revealing the piss-people-off parts until after they've voted."

      b) "We'll show it after the elections, when the proles will be tired of electioneering and fed up with politics and no-one will care, or listen to the few that do."

      And/Or

      c) "We'll 'promise' to show the documentation after the elections, so we won't lose votes when we don't."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why wait until mid November?

        But by ratifying it BEFORE the elections AND before the text is public, they can pull off a win-win, screw the proles. Put it this way. The proles will either ignore the whole business OR be ticked off ALREADY no matter what you do. Best way around that is to find a way to trample them EITHER WAY. This way, even if they lose, the terms means they're in the lead going back to private life. After all, a Congressman usually doesn't make the real money IN office.

        PS. Yes, it's an election year, but it's the SENATE that ratifies treaties. And they serve staggered terms of six years. Only a third of them are up for election this year.

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