The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a massive trade agreement that's being negotiated in secret by 12 countries across the Pacific. It has 29 chapters covering all kinds of regulations, and we only know what's in it based on outdated leaks and misleading government statements. But based upon what has been revealed, we know that there are serious threats to the environment, public health, the free and open Internet, financial regulation, middle-class wages, workplace rights, and to democracy itself.

Now, hundreds of organizations across the United States are fighting a bill called Fast Track (officially the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015). If this legislation passes, lawmakers would shirk their constitutional authority over trade policy, letting the White House and the U.S. Trade Representative write binding TPP rules in secretive, corporate dominated meetings. If this passes, the president would be empowered to sign the TPP before lawmakers got a vote. Congress then would only have a small window of time to conduct hearings over the done deal and give a yea-or-nay vote, without any ability to amend the TPP before binding the United States to its broad terms.

So we're a diverse group of public interest organizations here today to answer your questions about everything TPP—the secretive negotiating process, our analysis of the provisions, and how the leaked chapters show that this agreement is a wish list for big corporations but a threat to nearly everyone else.

We're here to share what we know about this agreement so you can help us stop it.


Those of us answering questions today:

Take Action:


UPDATE: That's it for us! Thanks so much for all of your questions and make sure to spread the word about Fast Track and the TPP, and how these secret trade deals threaten so many aspects of our lives. You can find all of our resources and action tools up there in the description text. Take care. :)

Comments: 184 • Responses: 8  • Date: 

bytester38 karma

Do we know why the TPP is being kept hidden from the public?

What do we know is in the TPP that is the biggest concern for our economy?

mairaEFF21 karma

The White House, along with the U.S. Trade Representative, claim that they need to keep negotiations secret to get the best possible deal for the U.S.—but organizations including the EFF, have analyzed leaked chapters of the TPP and have found that what they're negotiating behind those closed doors will undermine Internet users in the U.S. and around the world. We can't imagine how a good deal could ever be passed in secret, where only corporate lobbyists have the ability to see and comment on the text.

In terms of EFF's core concerns, we've found several pieces of the TPP's Intellectual Property chapter would undermine the digital economy,. For examples, there are rules that will continue to make it expensive for ISPs and content providers to host user-generated content, and other rules that will further encourage companies to sell devices pre-installed with DRM (digital rights management) technologies that prevent interoperability of those gadgets with various kinds of legal content—thereby shutting out new innovators and start-ups that try to sell products for existing devices.

HandsomeJackass14 karma

What is the best way to educate and get word out to others who might not be aware of this?

What is the best way to take action myself?

mairaEFF7 karma

EFF's TPP resource page is here, describing all the various threats to users in the agreement:

You can take our action to contact U.S. representatives here to oppose Fast Track: And you can help us bombard our lawmakers with tweets:

gellis1211 karma

I live in Canada. In what ways could this end up affecting me? And what can I do about it?

Also, you guys are awesome!

mairaEFF14 karma

Thanks for the support. :)
So here are just some of the ways Canadians will be impacted by the TPP's digital regulations:

  • "ISP Liability" Provisions—These could undermine the Canadian notice-and-notice system that is used to protect user's speech online. In the U.S. system, Internet content providers have limited liability over users' content where they're safe from being sued as long as they immediately respond to infringement notices—but what ends up happening is that they're incentivized to take down the allegedly illegal work because they don't want to be liable in case it goes to court. In Canada, websites and ISPs only have to forward along a notice, rather than take it down, which means users' works are protected by infringement notices that are sent without much regard as to whether it's actually illegal.

  • Copyright terms—The TPP will likely have provisions for copyright term lengths of life of the author plus 70 years, whereas 6 of the 12 countries (including Canada) has life+50 years. That means two decades of culture, such as books, movies, video games, and other works, would be lost from the public domain in those countries. It would also perpetuate an existing problem of "orphan works" where artworks whose creator or copyright-holder has passed away or is no where to be found, are not made available and published for others to access or use.

  • Investor-State (ISDS) Courts—Like environmental and health policies, the ISDS courts threaten to undermine rules like fair use, net neutrality, and other rules that are designed to protect the free and open Internet and users' rights to free speech online.

  • "Trade Secrets"—Leaked texts from last year revealed provisions that could make it a crime for journalists and whistleblowers to reveal corporate wrongdoing "through a computer system" (for example, all the excellent reporting on Sony's leaked emails).

gellis123 karma

Thanks for the reply!

Is there anything we can do to stop this from passing? Or do we just have to kinda sit here while various governments openly strip away our rights?

mairaEFF9 karma

We really need to do anything we can to make our public officials accountable to us, whose interests they are supposedly meant to represent and protect. That means we'll have to do everything from emailing them, calling them, or organizing to meet them in person—and if it comes to it, to go out to the streets and protest until they hear our concerns loud and clear.

underdabridge4 karma

How the hell are countries ever supposed to negotiate treaties if the US congress reserve the right to just amend it unilaterally over and over again? I have no problem with people opposing trade agreements, but opposing fast track is just stupid.

cdrakefairtrade9 karma

Reasonable question, but turn it around. The TPP--as all other trade deals since NAFTA--will affect most U.S. domestic policies, from food safety, to health policy, labor rights, to environmental protections, to financial services regulations, and more. How are US citizens supposed to continue to believe their voices influence their government if critical domestic policies are constrained by secret deals negotiated behind closed doors that impact these areas of so-called "domestic policy"?

The answer is not to have unlimited unilateral amendments -- the answer is to make sure the "negotiations" which are really just rule setting discussions, take place transparently and democratically, and allow for public participation and oversight, much like bills move through Congress. Of course there are closed door discussions about bills, but there are also public hearings, markups, floor debates, etc.

As negotiations come to a close, Congress should be able to weigh in and say it will or will not "fast track" the pending deal--based on publicly available text. If it will not, the executive branch will have a choice to go back to the table and get a better deal; can give up on the deal; or can take its chances sending it through without Fast Track.

Read more about how to improve "trade negotiating authority" and why here:

SavannaJeff4 karma

How are US citizens supposed to continue to believe their voices influence their government if critical domestic policies are constrained by secret deals negotiated behind closed doors that impact these areas of so-called "domestic policy"?

Because they will still have to be ratified. The concept of cabinet confidentiality is basically extended to international negotiations. There will be plenty of time for the public to become educated about the deal between the time when it is signed, and when it is up for ratification. There have also been a huge amount of calls for public submissions in most countries, groups like TEPAC (containing a number of environmental NGOs) are involved, as are various labour organizations.

The apocalyptic reporting by most digital groups has been awful about the TPP, completely misrepresenting and misunderstanding the most basic tenets of what they write about.

mairaEFF9 karma

Even if there's time for the public to become "educated", what kind of impact would that have for an agreement that is already finalized and signed off by government leaders? That's why we are fighting Fast Track—while the text might be public before the deal is ratified, there will be no way for us to change the text even if the public is opposed to large swaths of them.

The apocalyptic reporting by most digital groups has been awful about the TPP, completely misrepresenting and misunderstanding the most basic tenets of what they write about.

We have been following this debate for over a decade, and we have seen first hand how these secretive international negotiations lead to draconian copyright enforcement provisions. For example, the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement led to Colombia enacting much harsher criminal copyright rules, leading to a situation where a student faces prison time for sharing a paper online. We have seen the consequences of binding rules that are passed without public interest groups at the table and we cannot let similarly extreme rules become an international norm or see them become even worse in the coming decades.

walkaroundtown2 karma

How much of the TPP document has been leaked? Do they have to release the document in full before it is voted on to be law?

mairaEFF9 karma

Only a few chapters out of 29 has been leaked over the last few years. If Fast Track passes, then the White House would be required to release the text before it's voted on but Congress would have no power to change the contents of the agreement. So even if the Fast Track bill passes, we'll have another opportunity to stop the ratification of the TPP.

The frightening thing is that the TPP plays to a wide range of corporate interests, so even if a given lawmaker is opposed to some provisions in one part of the deal, they may still vote for it because of some other provisions that their major donors want them to approve. That's what's so bad about including so many different issues into one deal, let alone a secret one.

whatswiththesefrogs2 karma

If Fast Track goes through, what would be the next step in combating TPP for the average citizen?

mairaEFF4 karma

Even if Fast Track passes, we'll still need to call on our lawmakers to pick apart the contents of the deal once it's officially released and to vote against ratifying the deal so it's not binding on the U.S.

When and if we get to that point all of us will be working to create new actions for folks to take to ensure our representatives act in their constituents' best interests to fight these secret trade deals. We really hope we can defeat the TPP by stopping the passage of Fast Track.

Sandnn0 karma

Lobbying by EFF for the past two years has had zero effect producing any change in congress and now TPP Fast Track is closer than ever on being voted in the Senate after recently approved by the Senate Finance Committee. EFF members have been frustrated with being immediately emailed for donation requests when participating in “EFF’s Call for Action” emailing campaigns. Does the EFF realize or admit that TPP Fast Track is likely to be approved very soon and that this is just more foot stomping to drum up donations to the EFF?

mairaEFF14 karma

Well it was approved by the Senate Finance Committee, but we're still very hopeful that the House version of the bill won't pass. The reality is that we're up against come powerful private industries, that have thrown an immense amount of resources to influence the text of the TPP and the Trans-atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). We're doing all we can to make Congress members aware of our concerns and to vote against Fast Track and these secret deals, and the strength we have on our side is all the Internet users and individuals are willing to take action to fight against corporate-capture of our government.

Every phone call, every email, and every in-person meeting with our representatives will make a difference in the final outcome.