The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a controversial trade deal supported by many U.S. tech companies, is on death row, with both major party presidential candidates opposed.
It's a long shot, but some tech trade groups are hoping for last-minute clemency from Congress and outgoing President Barack Obama. The trade groups are pushing for Congress to vote to approve the deal after November's general election, in the lame-duck session before a new Congress and a new president takes office.
The TPP, a free-trade deal negotiated among the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Region nations for seven years, has become a major presidential campaign issue in recent months.
Supporters say it would open up new markets to U.S. companies and make it easier for them to sell the products. But critics --- including Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton -- worry it would make it easier for U.S. companies to move jobs overseas, would drive down U.S. wages, and would balloon the country's trade deficit.
Supporters of the deal say it would eliminate 18,000 tariffs on U.S. products, would improve worker rights in many countries, and would require signatories to take steps to protect the environment. The TPP is especially attractive to the U.S. tech industry, which sees the Asia-Pacific Region as a growing market for its products.
"There are broad benefits for the economy and for consumers, who have access to [more] goods here in the United States as well," said Tiffany Moore, vice president of congressional affairs at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).
Opponents say the deal will make it easier for U.S. companies to ship jobs overseas and will contribute to an annual U.S. trade deficit that was US$531.5 billion in 2015. Critics of trade deficits say they discourage U.S. manufacturing.
The TPP also has detractors in the digital rights community, with groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation saying the deal would enshrine controversial copyright protections and enforcement measures across the signatories. The deal would widen the adoption of anticircumvention provisions in the U.S. Digitial Millennium Copyright Act, for example.
The copyright and other tech-related issues in the TTP have "definitely been overshadowed" by broader economic issues, said Jeremy Malcolm, senior global policy analyst at the EFF. The issues in the U.S. presidential campaign are "more politically volatile."
In addition to copyright concerns, the EFF has protested the TPP's provisions to criminalize disclosures of trade secrets, even for the purposes of journalism or whistleblowing. Other provisions relating to encryption and domain names, which opponents see as "inappropriate" for inclusion in a trade deal -- were negotiated without input from the wider Internet community, Malcolm said.
Opponents in the digital rights community are "riding on the wave of discontent about the agreement," Malcolm added. "We're not antitrade. We'd be happy with a trade agreement that didn't have the problems we've identified."
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