TPP In The News: No Disclosure, No Benefits

Unless the US passes Fast Track legislation, the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations are going nowhere, fast. According to a Japanese government briefing, only 10 out of 29 of the chapters have been completed after how many years of talks? Later this May, we'll have more talks in Guam, then possibly a proper round in the Philippines. The last round was in Brunei, which I attended as a "stakeholder" in August 2013. That was the nineteenth negotiation round, so not much progress seems to have been made, since then.

There has not yet been a single proper TPP round of negotiations held here in Japan.

More worryingly, while US legislators get to see the TPP texts, here in Japan, that is not going to happen.

The Asahi: Chastened vice minister retracts comment about disclosing TPP documents

A senior vice minister has retracted his statement about disclosing documents on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade arrangement after a tongue-lashing from his superiors.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, a senior vice minister in the Cabinet Office, said May 4, "We want to coordinate matters so that (legislators in Japan) can also access (the TPP) text from next week."

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was furious when he heard about Nishimura's comment and, according to government sources, retorted, "On what authority did he make that statement?"

Nishimura's immediate superior, Akira Amari, the minister in charge of TPP negotiations, said at a May 8 news conference, "(Nishimura) made a comment that led to a misunderstanding because of his desire to respond in a careful manner to opposition party Diet members."

"There are systematic differences between Japan and the United States, so the matter cannot be handled in the same way," said a contrite Nishimura at a May 7 news conference in Los Angeles. "I apologize for the poor manner in which I made my intentions known."

In the United States, U.S. senators and representatives can view the proposed TPP draft.

Amari explained May 8 that the system is different in the United States to that of Japan. U.S. legislators can face criminal charges if they leak certain information.

"It would be impossible to do the same thing that is being done in the United States," Amari said. "We need to give this matter more thought."

The participants in the TPP negotiations are obligated to protect the confidentiality of the talks. That is a major difference from negotiations within the World Trade Organization, where the various drafts being discussed are released at the appropriate junctures.

The conditions for disclosing documents related to the TPP negotiations were relaxed in March after calls in the United States for greater disclosure.

The U.S. trade representative's office has begun allowing the TPP drafts to be viewed by not only members of the U.S. Congress, but also in some cases by their staff. Officials connected to the major companies and industrial interest groups sitting on a U.S. government advisory panel are also allowed to view the documents. Among the companies on that government panel are Apple Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Nike Inc.

In Japan, the government has released summaries of the negotiations to political parties and business organizations.

For example, a seven-page summary of the negotiations was released May 1 explaining that talks had concluded on 10 of the 29 chapters in the TPP draft. The actual draft runs to several hundreds of pages.

In April, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan and Japan Innovation Party jointly submitted a bill that calls on the government to report on trade negotiations, including the TPP, at closed-door sessions of special committees in the Diet.

The government is anything but keen about passing such legislation.

Japan Inc wary of Pacific trade pact amid competition fears-poll

Japan Inc wary of Pacific trade pact amid competition fears-poll

TOKYO, March 17 (Reuters)

Japanese companies are wary of a 12-nation Pacific trade deal now in the works, with three-quarters not expecting their sales to benefit if an agreement is reached, a Reuters poll showed.

Only a quarter expect sales to increase if a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact is realised, while 2 percent fear they will be negatively affected, according to the Reuters Corporate Survey released on Tuesday.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership would link a dozen Asia-Pacific economies by eliminating trade barriers and harmonising regulations, in a pact covering 40 percent of the world economy and a third of all global trade.

But talks, aimed at realising a deal this year, have been bogged down as negotiators struggle to find common ground over opening up key sectors including autos and agriculture.

Indeed, about half of Japanese firms in the survey worry a trade deal would bring about fierce competition with products and services from overseas, while a quarter are concerned about the loss of consumer information and intellectual property.

Overall, just 1 percent expect their sales would benefit to a large extent from the trade deal.

The survey of 483 companies was conducted for Reuters by Nikkei Research between March 3 and March 16.

Massive Coalition of Japanese Organizations Campaigns Against TPP Copyright Provisions

"We are deeply concerned about this situation in which important decisions for our nation’s culture and society are being made behind closed doors" reads a joint public statement from Japanese activists who are fighting the copyright provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A group of artists, archivists, academics, and activists, have joined forces in Japan to call on their negotiators to oppose requirements in the TPP that would require their country, and five of the other 11 nations negotiating this secretive agreement, to expand their copyright terms to match the United States' already excessive length of copyright.

Negotiators have reportedly agreed to set their copyright terms to the length of an author's life plus 70 years. Since the news was leaked, there has been growing opposition among Japanese users, artists, and fans against this copyright expansion—which is nicknamed the "Mickey Mouse Law" there due to Disney's heavy lobbying that led to the copyright extension in the United States nearly two decades ago. The issue gained substantial awareness when prominent Japanese copyright lawyer, Kensaku Fukui, wrote a blog post about the TPP's threats to Japanese Internet users and culture that went viral a month ago.

Then in a widely-covered public press event last week, representatives of the Japanese digital rights organizations, MIAU, Creative Commons Japan, and thinkC, presented a joint statement endorsed by 63 organizations and businesses that describes the threats that the TPP's copyright provisions would pose to Japan's culture. The event was also streamed online, where over 15,000 users tuned in to watch. Several creators, including playwright Oriza Hirata, cartoonist Ken Akamatsu, journalist Daisuke Tsuda, and Yu Okubo of the online digital archive, Aozora Bunko, and others, joined the announcement to support the campaign against over-restrictive copyright rules in the TPP. In their presentation, they discussed how lengthy copyright leads to a massive orphan works problem and an environment that make cultural archiving and preservation exponentially more difficult.

In addition to opposing lengthy copyright terms, the anime and fan-art community are also concerned about the TPP's criminal enforcement provisions. There is a particular section that says that "competent authorities may act upon their own initiative to initiate a legal action without the need for a formal complaint" by the copyright holder. The fear is that this would lead to a major crackdown on derivative works, including written or drawn fan fiction, recorded music covers of songs, or cosplayers, who may upload photos of themselves dressed as characters. These are all elements of Japan's thriving “otaku” culture, which has spread around the world and brought in millions of dollars for Japanese creators. Japan does not have a U.S.-style fair use system, in which there are flexibilities for uses based upon the nature, purpose, amount, and effect of the use on the market for the original copyrighted work. So Japanese fans could be criminally liable for their work if any "competent authority" can claim that a derivative work constitutes criminal copyright infringement. This would have a huge chilling effect on vibrant communities of fan fiction that exist on Japanese websites.

Both the copyright term expansion and the non-complaint provision previously failed to pass in Japan because they were so controversial. Now that we at least know for certain that copyright extensions could pass in the TPP, the media there is finally taking notice. The organizers made national news as major Japanese news outlets covered the event.

We are thrilled to see this issue get such mainstream attention in Japan, and support their statement calling on negotiators to remove all controversial copyright provisions from the TPP, including the copyright term extensions, criminal enforcement, anti-circumvention of DRM, intermediary liability, and others. The EFF is also working alongside the Fair Deal Coalition, the international coalition of digital rights groups from TPP-negotiating nations, to create a project to fight the TPP copyright extensions. Stay tuned for this new global effort to stop the TPP from capturing more of our valuable shared culture through the trap of copyright's restrictions.



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