The Next Big Battles

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 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.

EU-India FTA

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.


  1. Colin

    Hello Rick,

    I was wondering when you would mention CETA.
    Do you propose letter writing campaigns to MEPs as with ACTA, or is it too early for that at the moment?

  2. jimbo

    the countries, industries, companies businesses and individuals that are concerned with and will benefit by these and similar agreements are never going to stop! they care not in the slightest what will happen to anyone else, as long as they get whatever it is they want, power and money. one way to stop this from happening is to ban all types of payments to political parties from companies and all types of lobbying payments. whilst politicians are able to accept ‘bribes’ in return for political favours, the public will never truly be fairly represented but will always be the sufferers

  3. Wendy Cockcroft

    You’re both right.

    We need to wait for guidance as to when to act. We don’t want to be hassling our MEPs every five minutes, but we do need to get them to flatten this. Now that this article has been published, the policymakers who read this blog are aware that we know about CETA and the India-EU treaty and will have to work hard to avoid another ACTA. They can’t get them through without a vote in the EU Parliament and if they know we’re getting ready for ACTA 2: The Return of the Email Avalanche, they may reconsider their strategy.

    One thing is certain: Parliament is where the final battle will be fought. The only thing they can do is to give us what we want: transparency and access to the documents. The days of secret treaties are over.

    We need an overarching strategy or we’ll be playing whack-a-mole with treaties for the rest of our lives. The good news is that Neelie Kroes is on our side and is working to bring about copyright reform. If we can get that and net neutrality enacted, job done. That’s the plan, but we’ll need help to do it. Can we count on you for support?

  4. printersMate

    While it is possible to bludgeon the elected officials into rejecting treaties, the real problem is the civel servants who do the actual negotiation. If they can get the treaty through it is not their jobs at risk, but their nominal masters jobs. Also the lobbyists jobs ate not at risk, so they do not care is achieving their aims cause the politicians to be replaced.
    So longer term planning may be needed to be ready with candidates against the worst of the MEPs. Some higher profile losses may convince them to take firmer control of the civil service.

  5. jimbo

    apart from my previous comments, why is it even possible for the likes of Karel De Gucht to continue to bring in proposals that are totally contrary to what the people want? although i appreciate that there has to be some protections in place for businesses, they should not override what is considered best for the people. if certain proposals are rejected, they should stay rejected, not be resurrected in a new ‘bill’ or have 2 words changed and rear their ugly heads again. like this, everything the industries want will keep being introduced until it gets voted in but everything the people want/dont want only gets voted on once and that’s it, finished for ever!

  6. Wendy Cockcroft

    The Big Game plan is to change the law. With IPR reform, Net Neutrality and transparency in place, any new treaties will have to be negotiated around those, or they won’t get past the first round. We need to get the Yanks to sort this out on their end since the USTR and the Chamber of Commerce, egged on by the RIAA and MPAA, are what’s driving the problem.

    As it is, they see IPR as the be all and end all, a product in and of itself, and until that mindset of “IPR is the only source of income” changes, we’ll be fighting these off every six months for the rest of our lives.

    If, however, we effect IPR reform in the USA as well as in the EU, problem solved. The only thing to worry about would be the procurement and investor chapters, but that’s not a digital rights issue. Still, our friends on the left would appreciate the help after all they’ve done for us.

    Basically, all these treaties have a predatory aspect that needs to be dealt with. Transparency ought to help to put an end to that. Global Pirate policies for the win!

    1. Scary Devil Monastery

      “As it is, they see IPR as the be all and end all…”

      Too true. Initially the US chamber of commerce went along with Intellectual Property being the foundation of business basis because India and China had more or less monopolized manufacture and industry. Since US companies were at the time the primary holders of Licenses, copyrights and patents, it was thought that this approach would allow the US to remain competitive.

      And the US body politic has swallowed this argument with hook, line and sinker.

      What they are missing is that China has as large a surplus capacity for creating IPR as they have in manufacture – and that China, today, are already preparing to take the market in IPR the same way they did for manufacturing. India has already surpassed the US in the service and support area and there is every indication that they will follow suit in patents and licensing.

      When that happens, the various global treaties on IPR will be a weapon against US industries, not for them. And one they handed to the “enemy” themselves.

      This is of course why China and India are even willing to sit down and sign these treaties – they know full well that in 20 years time these treaties will be their weapon. They must be laughing their heads of thinking about the silly shortsighted yanks…

      IPR is a bad thing and it could never survive in an environment where the body politic was thinking more than ten years ahead into the future. This is, of course, why the Chinese, after having developed and used capitalism for 4000 years, have never latched on to IPR – or if they did, they quickly abandoned it as impractical and unrealistic.

      What is required is, I believe, that the politicians are made aware that IPR is, in the end, the rope with which they will be hanging the entire US and Europe, come a situation in which the Chinese and Indians have become ascendant in their mass of patent and license portfolios. They ought to look at today where Apple can’t compete in innovation and design with Samsung and HTC and is forced to use patent law to compete in a court of law instead – and apply that to a situation a few decades further in time, where no US manufacturer can put a single modern design on the market because Asian companies now have the similar legal superiority.

      Now add this factor as well; Innovation and research becomes prohibitively expensive if you need a full legal team just to check whether what you want to research is covered by a patent or license.
      In Asia that barrier for all intents and purposes doesn’t exist, internally. Meaning their technological pace can escalate in ways where the west can’t follow.

  7. jimbo

    such a shame that so many countries are so scared of offending the USA. they certainly aren’t afraid of who they upset, how they do it or over what. the EU should have the balls to reject anything the US want to bring in, simply on the grounds that it will benefit them but no one else! as the US are the ones that do the most moaning over how ‘their IP, patents, trademarks and copyrights have been violated, ignoring totally how they violate others rights without a second thought, they should not export anything and not import anything either. i think the world would cope!

  8. printersMate

    The MPAA and RIAA in particular are the main force behind copyright extremism. Either they are fixared on eliminating piracy, or they are using it as an excuse to destroy the Internet as a competitor to their business models. I suspect the latter, particularly as there are some reports that the internet is not the primary means of enabling ptracy.
    The powers they are seeking, and there willingness to abuse the law is more in line with trying to prevent the Internet enabling competition to their business models, that with trying to deal with piracy. Their desire to make service providers responsible for and infringeing or links to infringemeing materials on there services is detructive of the Internet, especially where it requires takedown on notice to avoid being sued for infringement.
    Unfortunately the RIAA and MPAA have excessiive Infkluence in Washinton, and seem to have more access to trade treaty negotiators for the US tnah their government. Thes organisations are the real problem, along with the money they spend to Influece the politicians.

    1. Scary Devil Monastery

      Where Copyright is concerned, it’s the MPAA, RIAA and Ifpi. Middlemen distributors seeing their market niche disappearing.

      Copyright or not these companies are on their way out anyway – they can not survive any paradigm where mere distribution is the market niche in the internet age. And this, i think, they know. You merely have to look at the spastic reactions to alternate business models – even the fully legal ones – which infringe on their monopoly to realize their knee-jerk reaction is born out of a desperate attempt to maintain their business model for just a few more years.

      However, IPR has more usual suspects. Big Pharma for one, which makes vast profits on selling products which today are “generics” – and who willingly expend any amount of money in order to keep cheap import of such “generics” away from western shelves. Keeping that seat is worth billions annually in itself.

      In an earlier comment I mentioned Apple – well, take a quick look at how the patent wars they have with Samsung – and how quick they were to pull a competitor off the market for manufacturing a “rectangular communications device with a centered screen” as soon as the technical reviews gave at hand that Samsung actually built a better surf pad.

      IPR is all about one thing today – removing the innovative and technological edge a competitor has by inventing an excuse to claim it is illegal.
      Merely to remain in business companies such as Google have to sink billions of dollars into purchasing defensive patents – a neat exercise in completely wasted money.

      Given that the given excuse for IPR is the defense of developers, it’s interesting to note that the primary use to which IPR is put these days is to block development. What that does to the idea of a free market you can readily imagine…

      1. printersMate

        The copyright maximalists are pricing education out of reach of poorer countries. The patent lobby is doing the same to technology and medicine. This is driven by the US, and then they wonder why extremist regimes get into power and stir up hatred against them. IPR battles amongst the successful companies only put up the price, while the real damage is being done amongst those who cant afford to improve their lot.

  9. jimbo

    what is even worse is that governments and politicians are not only allowing them to carry out their damaging practices but are actively encouraging them by the continuous introduction of various bills and laws that aid them. what everyone in power seems to conveniently forget (or ignore, whatever suits at the time,) is that this is all to aid American companies, whether it is the US entertainment industries or US pharma companies or some other US industry. it isn’t to do anything beneficial for the rest of the world, in fact, the effects are the exact opposite. using pharma as an example, why would any country agree to stop making their own medicines which cost a fraction of the price in favour of continuing to buy US medicines that the people are too poor to buy and therefore die? it seems to me that the USA is doing it’s damnedest to take control of everywhere, regardless of the cost to everywhere and everywhere is allowing it to do so. it’s basically world domination without having to fire a shot or risk killing your own people at the same time. why is everywhere so afraid to stand up to the USA? why is everywhere so afraid of standing up for itself?

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