Transparency in trade negotiations and internet freedom have taken centre stage internationally which I believe has important implications for NZ.
The New Zealand negotiators for ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, have now said publicly that “New Zealand is calling for greater transparency in negotiations”. In December, MED held two briefings on ACTA, these slides have been made available.
ACTA is currently being negotiated in secrecy. New Zealand is participating in the discussions along with Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States. Red Alert posted on this before Xmas.
The NZ Herald reported in November that while the US government claims ACTA is about counterfeiting rather than major changes to copyright law, and shouldn’t be subject to public scrutiny, leaked versions of ACTA discussion papers seemed to indicate that copyright lobby organisations may have in fact turned treaty negotiations to suit their own agenda.
At the moment it seems like many of the countries are saying they’re calling for more transparency but they have to get the others to agree. The big question is, is this a tactic, to make it look as though they take it seriously, or is it real?
The next round of ACTA negotiations kick off today in Guadalajara, Mexico today. Transparency is on the agenda in Mexico, but it remains to be seen whether it will eventuate. It remains to be seen whether our negotiators from MED and MFAT mean it.
In the meantime, ‘Internet Freedom’ has now become a playing card in US foreign policy, in particular with regards to China and other oppressive regimes.
This has immediate implications for New Zealand, with regards to termination of people’s internet connections for copyright infringement which is included in the revised version of Section 92A of the Copyright Act and is considered by some to be included in ACTA drafts.
In her recent and significant speech on Internet Freedom, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:
“the freedom to connect – the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other. The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly in cyber space.”
I’ve been writing quite a bit about this and thinking about the wider issue of the right of our citizens to equitably access the internet (which implies that they shouldn’t be cut off from access)
Hillary Clinton also said:
“The private sector has a shared responsibility to help safeguard free expression. And when their business dealings threaten to undermine this freedom, they need to consider what’s right, not simply the prospect of quick profits.”
The full text of Hilary Clinton’s speech is here.
I’ll be watching how the ACTA negotiations play out.