Posted: 27 Oct 2012 11:26 AM PDT
Activism – Wendy Cockcroft: Since ACTA was decisively beaten on 4th July 2012, the first time a free trade agreement had been scuppered by the people of EU member nations, the big business lobbyists have taken heed and resolved to change in order to be more successful. Hence the secrecy. CETA and the EU-India trade agreement are the next big battles. We need your help.
The term “Free Trade Agreement” is a misnomer. The idea is to remove barriers, taxes, and tariffs, but since people can end up being shackled to a multinational corporation’s agenda, the only freedom is in the ability of the corporations to operate in ways that often end up utterly destroying local economies or harnessing law enforcement agencies to protect their interests. The worst part is that we the taxpayers have to foot the bill for our losses of national sovereignty and civil rights. We saw ACTA off in July, but there are two more major agreements to deal with and we need to be ready to contact our M.E.P.s when the time comes.
CETA is the Canada-Europe Treaty Agreement. It’s so bad, Canadian cities and local authorities want to be able to opt out of it. The issues they’re having centre on the onerous procurement rules that would favor European corporations over local suppliers but there are implications for the internet, too, in the form of the ACTA-style intellectual property chapter, which Dr. Michael Geist published on his blog. It’s only an old leaked draft, but getting hold of the actual documents has been an exercise in frustration. However, it seems that Bilaterals.org has been able to preserve a copy of the Draft Consolidated Text. Despite the lack of information available, tech blogs such as Techdirt and Computerworld are picking up the story.
The European Union has been secretly negotiating a free trade agreement with India since 2007 that is worryingly similar to ACTA. Intellectual property rights enforcement would include border detention and seizure measures of goods being imported by India, exported by India or in transit via India’s ports or airports. This could affect the generic drugs that India produces for its people. Needless to say, intellectual property rights are on the menu, mostly for pharmaceuticals, it has to be said, but since we have no access to the documents involved it’s fair to say it’s likely to include internet provisions, too. David Martin MEP, rapporteur for the European Union’s International Trade Committee, whose recommendations helped to pull ACTA down in July, is joining unions and international NGOs to oppose the treaty and the secrecy that goes with it. Indian business groups agree, fearing that European imports will jeopardize local production.
It is essential that we mobilize opposition to these free trade agreements, not just because they are unjust, but because, if they are ratified, they will bring back the spectre of ACTA, just as E.U. Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht assured us back in July.
Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.
Phi Beta Iota: Transparency, not secrecy, is the foundation for legitimate and hence sustainable public governance. Secrecy has now gone beyond convenience to become toxic and inherently suspect.