I am very proud of the part I played in helping to fight off ACTA in 2012. Indeed, I must confess to a certain amount of schadenfreude where the lamentation of our opponents is concerned. That said, CETA and TTIP are still on the radar and although they have been shot several times they are still on their feet. This is mostly due to the efforts of the corporate lobbyists and their allies in the European Parliament and the US Congress, who are determined to push it through no matter what because they believe it will spur growth. The main bones of contention for Pirates are the intellectual property chapters and ISDS. We know what's in CETA's IPR chapter and we have the EU's IPR position paper for TTIP. We also have the ISDS chapters for both CETA and TTIP. Bear in mind that if we let either of these through their conditions will affect our laws while they're in force and will act as a blueprint for future trade agreements. Bear in mind that our own MEPs are willing to betray us over IPR and Investor-state arbitration, so while the latest TTIP leaks throw some light on the state of play it's not worth getting too excited over them; it ain't over till they get to the floor of the EU Parliament and are double-tapped in the plenary vote, as ACTA was.
Those MEPs who can't or won't accept the dangers inherent in secretly-negotiated agreements care nothing for the curtailments of our property rights and personal freedoms, particularly where incumbent protectionism regulations (okay then, "intellectual property rights," but I'm saying this through gritted teeth) are concerned.
A clear example of IPR discrepancy is the US “Bars and Grills” intellectual property rule. This rule means musicians are not compensated when their music is played in retail or social outlets in the USA. Therefore success of recent British music artists goes unrewarded, whilst US musicians pick up royalties from public playing of their music in the UK. This is just one area where the balance could to be restored. - Intellectual Property Rights - TTIP Unpacked
Just look at that statement! Instead of recognising what a burden it is on small businesses to pay ridiculously high licence fees for playing recordings they've already paid for (and allegedly own) in their own premises (a branch manager at PC World told me he paid £5k a year), they're demanding that this madness spread across the Atlantic. If the Americans insisted on getting rid of that nonsense I'd be cheering TTIP from the rooftops. Honestly, they're promoting a rentier economy, which only works for the rest of us if we have something to hold hostage. If they get their way, expect more outsourcing of manufacturing jobs and a reduction in the number of middle-income earners. Higher costs for essential items such as fuel and pharmaceutical products are sure to follow as there's no way to compete against a monopoly, which is what IPR is. This is ACTA all over again, complete with misinformation by the EU Trade Commission.
The EU and US have detailed enforcement provisions already, whereas some other countries that planned to join ACTA didn't. So we won’t negotiate rules on things like:
- penal enforcement
- internet service provider liability.
Of course not. Our own domestic governments have been racing ahead with the legislation required to carry out the wishes of their corporate masters; copyright terms went up by twenty years in 2013 and Our Glorious Leaders are looking to bring in ten year jail terms for file-sharing. Oh, and there's the horrible IP Bill, which as we all know will surely be used for IPR enforcement by the people tasked with hunting down terrorists — existing anti-terrorist legislation is already being abused in this way. Don't expect this to be restricted to people illegally torrenting Game of Thrones, expect it to be used on anti-FTA campaigners, too. It's already being used on the Greens.
Half of the battle we have to fight is against public ignorance and apathy. The rest of it is against corporate lobbyists and their friends in the European Commission and many of the people we voted to represent our interests in the European Parliament. They're not necessarily cackling villains who gleefully pet white cats while planning their next move. The truth is more complex than that. Basically, they tend to stop thinking when the word "trade" is mentioned. I've paraphrased the pro-ISDS arguments as follows:
If it's got the word "trade" in it it's got to be a good thing, right? And we need investors to enable more trade, right? And those people need to feel secure about investing in European businesses, are you with me? So of course we ought to have some guarantee of a return on that investment, do you get what I'm saying? Because our economies have pretty much flatlined and a boost from investment is the only way to make things better. Besides, these people are our friends.
There is so much wrong in naive assertions like this, which you may see written differently, but pretty much mean what I've said above. For a start, the EU is a rather schizophrenic entity in which various factions act against each others' interests. This lack of joined-up thinking is in evidence in the EU's decision to take Google to court on anti-trust charges. Google has significant interests in Europe. With either CETA or TTIP in place, we'd be screwed because Google would be able to take the EU itself as well as any national government to a secretive tribunal for "unfair expropriation." It'd have a strong case: the charges are mostly bogus and most likely motivated by publishing companies determined to get their much-vaunted "ancillary copyright" enacted into law. So basically one side of the EU is likely to bring the wrath of American multinational corporations upon us while the other is cheerfully making it easier for them to gut us like fish in a secret tribunal with no democratic oversight or a more open system with a little more oversight which is actually worse. The funny part is the EPP group, which is particularly gung ho for ISDS, seems to actually believe they can turn a bolting wild horse into a Lipizzaner but like every idealist ever, they're viewing their position through rose-coloured glasses.
The state of play
Don't get too excited because the EU is on the back foot over the leaks, CETA is on the rocks and TTIP is taking a battering. Yes, it's looking ever less likely that either of them are going to be ratified by our national parliaments but America's President Obama is pushing this hard and Britain's David Cameron has yet to speak out about it. A 38 Degrees campaign got the issue of Parliamentary scrutiny of FTAs onto the table, and despite the slagging we got from various people they agreed that they shouldn't merely wave them through. Let's keep the pressure on by taking part in campaigns against TTIP and CETA: this is emphatically NOT over till our democratic institutions have closed them down for good.