Keeping IP out of TAFTA

On the heels of the announcement of the newly kicked off EU-US Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Access joined a group of roughly 35 (and counting) internet freedom organizations, public health groups, activists, and other public interest leaders to urge both the US and the EU to keep copyright, patents, trademarks and geographical indications — so-called “intellectual property” — out of the negotiations.

If signed, the Agreement would create the largest free trade area to date – and that was before Mexico and Canada indicated interest in joining. With previous and ongoing agreements such as ACTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, there are serious concerns about the potential direction these talks can lead, especially from a European perspective.

While the declaration urges both administrations to immediately release documents and conduct negotiations transparently, the agreement is part of a worrying trend in which democratic policy making — particularly in the area of “intellectual property” — is outsourced through Free Trade Agreements. In the midst of the global economic crisis, these agreements often push countries to adopt copyright and IP rules that undermine human rights, access to medicines and the open internet (for instance, see the ongoing talks around the EU-India FTA).

Past examples of FTAs continue to raise concerns

Developing countries often fall prey to the pressure of the US government in FTAs, but so does Europe. The US seems to consistently succeed  in pressuring Europe to adopt policies and laws that simply do not serve the continent’s best interests, a prime example of this being the EU-US PNR Agreement.

In May 2012, Access and EDRi acquired the unredacted negotiating documents of ACTA, which exposed the failures of the European Commission to negotiate effectively on behalf of European citizens and businesses, including on transparency of negotiations and the defense of EU interests in the area of IP.

If examples such as ACTA are anything to go on, there is reason to be concerned about the potential outcomes of TAFTA. Such agreements, negotiated outside of democratic fora, significantly increase the privileges of multinational corporations, often at the expense of human rights such as free expression.

Next Steps

In order to ensure that this agreement succeeds in accomplishing its stated, primary goal to “liberalize investment and harmonize regulation, boosting economic growth and jobs”, it must remain legitimate in the eyes of citizens. That includes, at the very least, ensuring the negotiations are carried out transparently.

Excluding Intellectual Property from the negotiations will further ensure that this agreement does not spiral into yet another ACTA. As the declaration urges, “The TAFTA negotiations must not lead to a rewriting of patent and copyright rules in a way that tilts the balance even further away from the interests of citizens”.

Have questions? Ask your representative where they stand on IP in TAFTA, and follow the debate on Twitter by using the hashtags #IPout and #opendraft.