President Obama’s massive trade agreement with 11 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, has hit a number of roadblocks. It has stumbled in the Senate and received opposition from medical professionals, environmental groups, and labor unions. Proponents say the TPP will help grow the American economy and open up new markets for American exports. Detractors believe it will result in more low-wage American jobs being moved overseas. But it’s hard to say exactly what its effects will be because the full text of the agreement has been kept secret and Congress is not allowed to disclose the details to the public.
Now one more group is throwing its hat into the ring: technology companies. In an open letter to Congress, over 250 technology companies large and small expressed their opposition to the trade deal. The companies include project management website Basecamp, web hosts Dreamhost and Namecheap, cell phone company Credo Mobile, hardware company for the maker movement Adafruit, and others such as Mediafire, Imgur, and Boing Boing.
We write to you as a community representing thousands of our nation’s innovators, entrepreneurs, job-creators, and users to express our concern over trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Despite containing many provisions that go far beyond the scope of traditional trade policy, the public is kept in the dark as these deals continue to be negotiated behind closed doors with heavy influence from only a limited subset of stakeholders.
The letter goes on to state that the TPP would create limits to fair use by making copyright law more strict, make online enforcement of copyright infringement expensive and onerous for startups and small companies, criminalize journalism and whistleblowing, and harm consumer and user rights.
“The TPP makes a mockery of democratic legislative ideals,” says David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of the Ruby on Rails web development framework and a partner at Basecamp. “It’s shrouded in secrecy exactly because it would wither in sunlight. It’s a terrible piece of overreach to endow a few special interests with enormous and unsavory power. The whole thing needs to be scrapped and started over. International trade is too important to have it hitched to this collection of wishful thinking by a select few.”
“Democracies make their laws in public, not in smoke-filled rooms,” says Cory Doctorow, co-editor of Boing Boing. “The fact that TPP backers went to extreme, unprecedent measure to stop anyone from finding out what was going–even going so far as to threaten Congress with jail if they spoke about it–tells you that this is something being done to Americans, not for Americans.”
You can read the full text of the letter and list of companies signing below: