WikiLeaks shines rare light onto US trade negotiations

Leak details intellectual property rights deal in Trans-Pacific Partnership under negotiation between US and 10 nations

US President Barack Obama poses for a photograph with Trans-Pacific Partnership leaders.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

In its latest document dump, WikiLeaks unearthed what it says is a leaked chapter from secretive trade negotiations under way between the U.S., Japan, and a number of Pacific rim nations. The documents suggest the proposed framework will have far reaching consequences and undermine individual rights worldwide.

The anti-secrecy organization released what it says is the August version of a section of the negotiating framework concerning intellectual property rights, part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed free trade agreement between the U.S. and ten nations.

The nations covered by the TPP total almost 40 percent of the world’s GDP, over 11 percent of its population and about a quarter of its global trade. The agreement is intended to lower trade barriers between the countries and help negotiate a framework on issues including intellectual property rights.  

Though the 95-page document indicates that details between the countries are still being hammered out over intellectual property rights, the issues highlighted would impact Internet freedom, access to pharmaceutical drugs and publishing.

“The U.S. administration is aggressively pushing the TPP through the U.S. legislative process on the sly," said WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange in a press release.

“If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs,” said Assange.

The United States Trade Representative (USTR), which is the Obama administration's lead on the TPP negotiations, refused to say whether the leak was authentic.

“We do not comment on the authenticity of documents purported as leaks from a negotiation,” said Carol Guthrie, a USTR spokesperson.

Responding to specific queries about the U.S. positions on issues like intellectual property rights occasioned by the leaked document, Guthrie said that U.S. policy on the TPP is ongoing and that nothing has been agreed.

“The intellectual property negotiation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership discussions has not been completed and a final text has not been agreed to," said Guthrie. "We are working with Congress, stakeholders, and our TPP negotiating partners to reach an outcome that promotes high-paying jobs in innovative American industries and reflects our values, including by seeking strong and balanced copyright protections, as well as advancing access to medicines while incentivizing the development of new, life-saving drugs.”

But critics say the alleged draft text privileges companies and governments over individual livelihoods.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the global health organization, reacted negatively to the draft text, saying it would complicate global access to vital medicines.

“The leak of the secret text confirms that the U.S. government continues to steamroll its trading partners in the face of steadfast opposition over terms that will severely restrict access to affordable medicines for millions of people. The U.S. is refusing to back down from dangerous provisions that will impede timely access to affordable medicines.”

Meanwhile, Internet freedom groups like Public Knowledge believe that the TPP does not “reflect the rights and interests of the wide variety of stakeholders affected by copyright.”

Al Jazeera and news services

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