US Senate takes step toward Trans-Pacific Partnership approval

A vote this week clears the way for the Senate to approve fast-track trade authority

Digital rights group Fight for the Future encourages the public to oppose fast track trade legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Digital rights group Fight for the Future encourages the public to oppose fast track trade legislation in the U.S. Senate.

A trade agreement that has digital rights groups worried gained traction this week, when lawmakers voted to end a filibuster of legislation that would fast-track trade deals through Congress.

The fast-track trade legislation, which could come to a final vote in the Senate by early June, would allow the Obama administration to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade deals with limited congressional input. And while several business and tech groups praised the vote, some digital rights groups vowed to continue their fight against trade promotion authority and the TPP as they are concerned about copyright provisions leaked from the secretive TPP negotiations.

Lawmakers should be wary of awakening the fury of the many Internet users opposed to TPP, said Evan Greer, campaign manager for digital rights group Fight for the Future. Lawmakers could face a backlash similar to the Internet activism opposed to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2011 and 2012, he said by email.

Copyright industries are using fast-track trade legislation and the TPP to "quietly push for extreme policies that the public would never accept if they were proposed openly," Greer said. "The future of the Internet is too important to be decided in secret or through backroom deals and Senate horse-trading."

Tens of thousands of Internet users, using tools from Fight for the Future and other groups, have contacted their lawmakers in opposition to the fast-track legislation and TPP, he said.

"This should be clear: Any member of Congress who votes for fast track/trade promotion authority is voting against the basic rights of every Internet user in the world," he added."They should take a look at recent history from SOPA to net neutrality: Hell hath no fury like the Internet scorned."

Still, the hard-to-understand TPP has generated only a fraction of the Internet activism that was generated by the SOPA debate or a recent fight over net neutrality rules. The issue has split some of the natural allies focused on online copyright issues, with Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and digital rights champion, and some copyright-wary trade groups supporting fast-track trade authority.

Business and tech trade groups have pushed for trade promotion authority, saying new trade deals would make it easier for U.S. companies to sell their products in other countries. Intel called this week's Senate vote a "critical step" toward opening up global markets for U.S. companies.

The Senate vote "sends a strong message to America's trading partners that we're serious" about the TPP negotiations and about pushing for high standards on copyright protection, labor rights and environmental protection, the company said in a statement.

The TPP, first proposed a decade ago, has been negotiated in secret, but leaks have shown that the U.S. and some other countries are pushing for signatory nations to adopt strong new intellectual property laws. There are several other unrelated complaints about the agreement, but most of the criticism has focused on copyright issues and on a lack of transparency about the negotiations.

Based on the leaks, the U.S. and other nations are pushing strong new intellectual property protections that would require some signatory countries to rewrite their existing laws, criminalize noncommercial sharing of works protected by copyright, and, critics say, create new criminal penalties for whistleblowers and journalists who access computer systems without permission.

The trade promotion authority legislation would set some congressional priorities for the TPP and other trade deals while allowing the Obama administration wide latitude to negotiate the deals. The legislation would prohibit Congress from adding amendments to trade deals negotiated by the administration when it's time for Congress to vote on them.

If the Senate approves the trade promotion authority bill, the House of Representatives would also have to approve it before it would go to Obama for his signature.

Backers of the trade promotion authority in Congress have called for the Obama administration to push for balanced copyright polices, including legal protections for websites where users post content, according to trade group the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

The Senate action lays "the foundation for a new era of online international trade," CCIA President and CEO Ed Black said by email. "The goals that [trade promotion authority] sets forth for digital trade are not merely desirable, but essential to the growth of Internet and technology service exports."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags governmentcopyrightlegislationlegalintelintellectual propertytradeComputer and Communications Industry AssociationEd BlackU.S. SenateRon WydenFight for the FutureEvan Greer

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments



Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?