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Why SOPA Supporters Need Secrecy in the Trans-Pacific Partnership

April 26, 2012

The fight for a globally unified and open Internet will
never end, but so far the Internet community has been on a winning streak. This has become apparent to both
Congress and to the forces
that supported SOPA
. It is
this dynamic that has prompted the preemptive effort by policy makers
attempting to pass major cyber security legislation to explain how
their legislation is not SOPA

It is also what is fueling the effort by SOPA supporters and their
allies in government to keep everything that is happening in the Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP) a mystery to the public. 

When decisions on Internet policy were publicly debated as
they were with SOPA, virtually everything supporters wanted from the Internet (after
spending more than $100 million lobbying) was rejected by the American people. Therefore, the only way to counteract
this in the future is to avoid a public debate altogether. That is why TPP has been, and remains
to be, drafted and negotiated (with special interests’ involvement) completely
in secret.

If TPP is not subject to basic transparency and a public
debate, Congress will pass a TPP containing any number of the rejected
provisions of SOPA through a process called policy
laundering
. This is due to the
fact that a trade agreement, once it comes to Congress, will only happen after
the White House receives a renewal of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). This authority will allow the United
States Trade Representative (USTR) to submit to Congress a finalized trade
agreement that prompts a mandatory vote and could not be amended, filibustered,
or blocked in any manner. 

It is
worth recalling that the only reason SOPA is not already law today is due to
all of these procedural options. Now while TPA will have to go through the normal legislative process, it
will be hard for a majority of Congress to vote against it given that many in
Congress support fast tracking trade agreements as a general matter. Again, keeping what is actually being
proposed in TPP a secret helps avoid having a debate during the TPA renewal
step.

Here is how the public can avoid this future. Public Knowledge believes the public
has a right to know what their government is advocating in the international
trade agreement arena when it comes to the future of the Internet. It is worth noting that there are two
types of TPP.  One is a finalized
TPP that every country has signed off on and the other is each individual
country’s wish list. Therefore,
the USTR should disclose its wish list for the Internet so that it is clear
what the government is advocating on behalf of the public. Once that information is made
available, then Americans can voice their opinion to their government and the
USTR can change its advocacy where appropriate based on public input.  Such a process would ensure that the USTR
wish list for the TPP is in fact reflective of the American people. 

A functional democracy is dependent on an informed citizenry and so far
the American democracy has made very clear where it stands when presented with
choices on Internet policy. The
only feasible way for SOPA supporters to bypass the public is to keep them uninformed
through secrecy and to stifle
opportunities for public input.
 

However, this is still a democracy and they can only do this if the
public does not voice its opposition to the process. Each day this process continues is another day the hard
fought victory against SOPA could have been for nothing.

If you disagree with what is going on with the TPP, please take a moment to sign our petition.