The United States joined into the negotiations on Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in 2009. There are now 12 countries involved in this: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. (One colleague pointed out that China is not part of this, which may be significant.) Delegations are contains to meet as they work towards an agreement, hopfully in 2014. These types of negotiations are not totally transparent until an agreement has been reached. If this results in a treaty, the U.S. Senate would need to approve a resolution for ratification (two-third present must vote for it). Prior to that vote, all of the details would be known and additional parties (us!) could lobby for or against it.
In the agreement's outline, it says:
Intellectual Property. TPP countries have agreed to reinforce and develop existing World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) rights and obligations to ensure an effective and balanced approach to intellectual property rights among the TPP countries. Proposals are under discussion on many forms of intellectual property, including trademarks, geographical indications, copyright and related rights, patents, trade secrets, data required for the approval of certain regulated products, as well as intellectual property enforcement and genetic resources and traditional knowledge. TPP countries have agreed to reflect in the text a shared commitment to the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.Earlier this year, Ambassador Michael Froman said:
“And, for the first time in any trade agreement, we are asking our trading partners to secure robust balance in their copyright systems – an unprecedented move that draws directly on U.S. copyright exceptions and limitations, including fair use for important purposes such as scholarship, criticism, news commentary, teaching, and research.
“The balance we are seeking also includes ensures that safe harbors for Internet service providers, or ISPs, are available so that legitimate providers of cloud computing, user-generated content sites and a host of other Internet-related services who act responsibly can thrive online.
“I have heard some of our critics suggest that TPP is in some way related to SOPA. Don’t believe it.
“This just isn’t true.
“Our touchstone in TPP is our strong and balanced domestic legal framework.
“The United States will agree to nothing in TPP that goes beyond existing U.S. intellectual property law.
“And we will continue to press our partners to allow digital information to cross borders unimpeded. We are working to preserve a single, global Internet, not a Balkanized Internet defined by barriers that would have the effect of limiting the free flow of information and create new opportunities for censorship.
“Indeed, fundamental to TPP is the priority of ensuring freedom of the Internet and an open digital environment that will benefit consumers around the world.
“Cross-border information flows are important to spurring innovation, incorporating small and medium-sized businesses into the global economy and laying the foundation for the next generation of economic drivers.The question is, of course, will this treaty be bad for copyright? The EFF has done analysis on what it has been able to discern about the agreement. I suggest that you read what is available from the USTR, the EFF others on this, before you react. Then keep your eyes open for news of an agreement being reached and the Senate being asked to act on it.