At least there’s one not-entirely-terrible side effect of last week’s US presidential election. Over the weekend, the Obama administration conceded that with the incoming Republican president-elect an avowed enemy of globalisation, it would effectively abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a free trade agreement between the US, Australia and 10 other Pacific Rim countries with a wide range of implications including making Aussie ISPs liable for the copyright infringement of their users, enforcing geo-blocking, and potentially raising the price of tech in this country.
The Trans Pacific Partnership is a controversial trade deal opposed by many interests groups within Australia including Choice and Wikileaks and championed by the country’s current Liberal government.
Negotiated almost entirely in secret through the 12 countries involved, the TPP includes provisions for movie companies and copyright holders to force Australian ISPs to effectively filter every piece of communication that travels through their servers to hunt for possible copyright infringement.
The deal was finalised around this time last year and includes sweeping intellectual property changes to Australia’s current legislation. Choice says the deal will have minimal financial benefit — around 0.7 per cent of Australia’s GDP by 2030 — and opens up the country to investor-state dispute lawsuits like the 2015 case where tobacco giant Philip Morris challenged Australia’s plain packaging laws at a cost of $50 million to taxpayers.
At the base level, the TPP would mean Australians would likely pay more for their internet access. That would come from the extra cost of administering the changes brought around by the TPP, which also allows for government seizure of computers involved in alleged copyright infringement — with an overall “chilling effect” on people’s online behaviour according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
But with a Republican-controlled House and Senate and President-elect Donald Trump set to enter the White House on January 20, 2017, the Wall Street Journal reports the TPP is as good as dead. The outgoing lame duck Obama administration has no power to push through the deal, and Trump — who previously referred to the TPP as a plan to “rape” the US — would likely abandon it entirely. A similar united deal with European Union countries called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is equally stymied.
With the TPP off the table, Australia’s largest trading partner and the other main Asian power in China will likely move forward with its plans to implement the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with Australia and other Pacific countries — but not the US — to lower tariffs and trade barriers without the TPP’s included impositions on Australia’s existing laws for intellectual property and copyright.