Desperately seeking silver linings?

The TPP, transparency and minimising the downside for the Internet community

Lately we’ve been asking ourselves what should we at InternetNZ be doing about the TPP. If it's seemed like we've been a bit quiet on the issue, it's only because we’ve been been internalising some pretty complicated situations in our heads.

As per my last post about what our InternetNZ Issues team learned at NetHui, we heard concern from many of our members about what the TPP may do to the internet. Of course, there is also significant public discourse and there have been leaks. Judging by statements from public interviews with the Prime Minister, the Trade Minister and TPP negotiation team envoys, New Zealand’s main focus appears to have been to seek gains for exports and primary industries, making concessions around other things such as intellectual property, medicine policy and presumably some other issues.

We’ve been working on a number of TPP-related matters for a long time. We have long-established positions and programmes of work on Copyright and Intellectual Property; on law that supports Internet-enabled innovation and that preserves human rights online. These have always been part of our work, and they remain so today. We’ve been constantly shaping these pieces of work anticipating a range of different challenges, including the TPPA. We’ve also heard the same rumours and read the same leaked drafts as everyone else. It remains hard though to work on what we don’t fully know.

Which brings me to the issue about secrecy.  Aside from one of our staff declining to view the eCommerce sections of the TPP in a previous role (ethics can be so very pesky can’t they), none of our staff have actually seen the TPP. We haven’t been consulted and our opinion hasn’t been sought out.  Trade-deals are negotiated in secret, I get that. But, as an organisation that emphasises multi-stakeholder engagement and working with (and for) the wider Internet community here in New Zealand, this sort of secrecy is the direct opposite of what we stand for and how we operate. It breeds distrust and suspicion; it leads to suboptimal outcomes, and it chills participation.

We don’t then know what the TPP may mean for the Internet or Internet-related benefits and uses. What we do know though is what we do stand for. That’s expressed in our mission - a better world through a better Internet. What we stand for is also expressed in our policy principles - available here: https://internetnz.nz/policy-principles - the most relevant of which to the TPP appear to be:

3. Internet governance should be determined by open, multi-stakeholder processes.

4. Laws and policies should work with the architecture of the Internet, not against it.

8. Technology changes quickly, so laws and policies should focus on activity.

We will measure the TPP against these. And if it is found wanting, we will absolutely say so - loudly, with commitment and conviction.

We also commit to listen to you, our members and Internet-community, in forming our view of what we should do once that official text is released. We will recognise the benefits that this agreement may deliver to New Zealand’s Internet. We will fight any negatives for the technology and internet sectors that it raises - Technical Protection Measures is an area of concern that we see from drafts so far and we’ll be talking more about this in coming days based on what we know from leaks and drafts. We will push for improvements to New Zealand law based on what other TPP signatories have that would benefit the New Zealand Internet community - fair use in copyright is a fantastic example of something that most other TPP countries have but we don’t.

More succinctly put, we will work to ensure that the TPP promotes the benefits and uses of the Internet and protects its potential.

So when it comes to the TPP, we know what we stand for, and we know how we will get it. All we need to know now is what we’re working with. For better or worse, we should know that soon.