Google appears unlikely to win any new friends with its decision to come out publicly in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a widely controversial trade agreement that is in the works between the United States and 11 other countries.
In a blog post June 10, Google Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker expressed hope that Congress would quickly approve the pact, which was signed earlier this year by officials from the participating countries.
“The TPP is not perfect, and the trade negotiation process could certainly benefit from greater transparency,” Walker conceded in his post. But, while Google will continue to advocate for process reforms, the pact overall represents a force for good on the Internet, he said.
“Like many other tech companies, we look forward to seeing the agreement approved and implemented in a way that promotes a free and open Internet across the Pacific region,” he said.
The company’s rosy view of the TPP puts it at odds with many people, including rights advocacy groups, organized labor and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who see the pact as a secretive treaty designed to bolster the interests of corporate giants.
The TPP is a trade agreement between the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand and three other countries. The pact’s many proponents in the U.S., led by the Obama administration, have pitched it as an agreement that will make it easier for American businesses to sell their products in other countries.
According to an official description, the TPP eliminates about 18,000 taxes and other trade barriers on American products sold in the 11 participating countries and, by making it easier to sell American goods overseas, will boost job growth at home.
The TPP also includes new provisions for copyright and intellectual property protection that its proponents say will protect U.S. companies against infringement, piracy and counterfeiting.
According to Google’s Walker, the TPP will enable better and more secure cross-border transfer of information and will prohibit participating countries from requiring local storage of cloud data. The TPP will balance the interest of copyright holders with the public interest in the broader dissemination and use of their work, Walker maintained.
Importantly, the trade pact will prohibit governments in the participating countries from discriminating against foreign Internet service providers and limit their ability to demand access to customer data and encrypted keys.
“We hope that the TPP can be a positive force and an important counterweight to restrictive Internet policies around the world,” he said.
Many though, including contenders in the U.S. presidential race, have slammed the TPP as being a pact that will only lead to more offshoring of jobs, lower wages and unsafe imports. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has been one of the many vocal critics of the TPP, has described it as a treaty written behind closed doors by large corporations including those in the pharmaceutical and media industries. According to him, the pact threatens the wages, benefits and collective bargaining power of U.S. workers.
Others like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have warned about the TPP introducing restrictive new copyright and IP protection laws designed to protect the interests of large multinational corporations. The pact would put new restrictions on journalists and whistleblowers, limit fair use of copyrighted material, and put in place punitive and disproportional criminal sanctions even for noncommercial file sharing and copyright infringement.
Dozens of comments on Google’s blog in response to Walker’s post reflected disappointment and anger at the company’s decision to support the TPP.
“So, the ‘don’t be evil’ era at Google is officially over?” one anonymous commenter noted. Another commenter using the name David Crane described Google’s stance as shameful. “This is not at all good for consumers, especially in the declining middle class.”