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Hypocrisy in spades...
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Even The German Government Wants Corporate Sovereignty Out Of TAFTA/TTIP | Techdirt
from the well,-at-the-moment dept

As we've noted, if there's one aspect of TAFTA/TTIP that practically everyone agrees is a bad idea, it's corporate sovereignty. Even against that background, it's still slightly surprising to read in the well-regarded German newspaper Die Zeit that the German government too wants it out of TTIP (via @FSchweitzer, original in German):
    The German federal government rejects special rights for corporations in the free trade agreement between the EU and the USA. "The federal government is doing all it can to ensure that it doesn't come to this," said the Secretary of State in the Federal Ministry of Economics, Brigitte Zypries, on Wednesday during question time in parliament. "We are currently in the consultation process and are committed to ensuring that the arbitration tribunals are not included in the agreement," said Ms Zypries.

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The Secretary of State then went on to make a point many others have emphasized:
    "The German federal government's view is that the U.S. offers investors from the EU sufficient legal protection in its national courts," said the SPD politician Zypries. Equally, U.S. investors in Germany have sufficient legal protection through German courts. "From the beginning, the federal government has examined critically whether such a provision should be included in the negotiations for a free trade agreement," Zypries said.

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Corporate sovereignty measures were added to earlier bilateral agreements when the legal systems of the country receiving foreign investment raised issues about their independence or where there was a fear that local governments might expropriate property with impunity. Neither can seriously be considered a risk in the case of the EU and US, and so investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is redundant, as the German government recognizes here.

If this really is Germany's view, it will have major consequences for the negotiations, since the European Commission won't be able to get TAFTA/TTIP accepted by the EU without Germany's full support. There remains some room for doubt, though, as the German Secretary of State also said:
    arbitration tribunals of this kind should only be brought in as a last resort after exhausting all legal remedies brought in national courts.

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If ISDS is excluded from TTIP, then that comment makes no sense, since there won't be the option to turn to supra-national tribunals after exhausting the legal process in national courts. So maybe Germany expects to be "persuaded" by concessions from the European Commission to change its mind at some point. But even if the German government is not totally abandoning the idea of corporate sovereignty, the fact that a senior politician is prepared to go on the record with the comments quoted above is significant. Germany's leaders obviously feel the need to distance themselves from ISDS, which is fast turning into a serious political liability.

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I am made unspeakably annoyed by an email I received this morning.
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email from: David Moon, Demand Progress <[email protected]>

This is urgent. The TPP Internet censorship plan is being finalized in secret meetings right now.  We're teaming up with several other organizations and millions of people to block it.

We need all hands on deck at this crucial moment.  We'll be delivering millions of petition signatures in about a week, and we want your name to be one of them -- just click here.

Here’s the situation: President Obama himself is in secretive meetings with key political figures and lobbyists in Asia to lock the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Internet censorship plan into place.

We know from leaked documents that this secretive plan will censor your use of the Internet and strip away your rights. If finalized, this plan would force ISPs to act as “Internet Police”, monitoring our Internet use, censoring content, and removing whole websites.

It will give media conglomerates centralized control over what you can watch and share online.

We urgently need your help to fight back. Add your voice right now and we’ll project a Stop the Secrecy message on key buildings in Washington D.C. to ensure Obama, the media, and everyone else knows this censorship plan must be stopped.

Once key leaders finalize TPP Internet censorship plans it will be used to globalize censorship across the world. This may be our only chance to stop it.

Our attention-grabbing message will shine a light on their secret plan and will make clear to Washington lobbyists that the Internet community will never accept the TPP’s secrecy or censorship. The more who speak out, the larger our projection will become, and the more people we can reach.

This is a decisive moment: we need to act right now -- join us, OpenMedia, and DailyKos as we fight back.

Join with millions of people all over the world to shine a light on the TPP’s job-killing Internet censorship plan. Let’s send decision-makers and the lobbyists pulling the strings a message they can’t ignore: "Stop the secrecy now."

With every voice that is added to our call the Stop The Secrecy projection in Washington bigger and brighter.

We’ve stalled them before and we can kill this censorship plan if we act together at this critical moment.

The bureaucrats and lobbyists think they can ram through this damaging binding plan behind your back and without your consent.

Click here to help make sure they don't let them get away with it.

Thank you for being a part of history,

Demand Progress

--- End quote ---

If one wants to, one can add one's name to the petition at:, where it says (my emphasis):
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The TPP is huge: It covers 40% of the global economy and will overwrite national laws affecting people around the world.3

The worst of the TPP threatens everything we care about: democracy, jobs, health, the environment, and the Internet.  That's why decision-makers are meeting in Asia under extreme secrecy and pushing 'Fast Track' laws to cement the plan into place.

This is no way to make decisions in the 21st century. We need to raise a loud global call to expose this dangerous secrecy now.

With every voice that is added to our call, a donor will contribute to make the Stop The Secrecy projection on buildings in Washington D.C. bigger and brighter. We need to make this as big as possible when Obama returns to Washington on April 30th.

Please add your voice to help us build one of the largest online campaigns the world has ever seen.
Maximize Our Impact by Spreading the Word:

Image: StopTheSecrecy spotlight
Are you in the U.S.? Check out 'Save the World: Stop Fast Track' from Global Trade Watch:
Save The World: Stop Fast Track

Click here if you haven't added your voice yet.

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  Aaron's Law sounds like some good legislation, if it gets passed....
The Internet and all those who care about Aaron Swartz took a big step forward today
Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Sen. Ron Wyden just introduced "Aaron's Law", which would fix some of the worst parts of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), including those which make it a potential crime to violate terms of service agreements -- that fine print that nobody reads at the bottom of a website.
The CFAA is the law under which Aaron and other innovators and activists have been threatened with decades in prison. It is so broad that law enforcement says it criminalizes all sorts of mundane Internet use: Potentially even breaking a website's fine print terms of service agreement. Don't set up a MySpace page for your cat. Don't fudge your height on a dating site. Don't share your Facebook password with anybody: You could be committing a federal crime.
It's up to us to keep the Internet open, a place for sharing ideas, exploration and activism -- not for stifling creativity and criminalizing innovators.
As the bill's sponsors put it in a Op-ed, "The events of the last couple of years have demonstrated that the public can speak loudly thanks to the Internet. And when it does, lawmakers will listen."
Let's make sure they hear us. Join us in calling on Congress to pass "Aaron's Law."
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-Tinman57 (June 20, 2013, 07:21 PM)
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Related to the above, I received an email today from Lawrence Lessig, <[email protected]>:
Go to if you would like to follow this up with your contribution.
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More than seven years ago, Aaron Swartz, the cofounder of Demand Progress, convinced me to give up my work on copyright and Internet policy, and take up the fight against corruption.
That fall, we started Change Congress, and for the next five years, we conspired on the best way to build a grassroots movement around this issue — because we both realized that was the only way we could ever win. Washington will not fix itself. We have to fix it for it.
Then a federal prosecutor distracted him. And then destroyed him. And the hope that I had — that someday he would return to this fight, and help us win it — was over.
All of us know how difficult that loss was. But when I had recovered enough to think, I resolved again to do everything that I could to win the fight that he had started me on.
I spoke at TED 6 weeks after he died, laying out the argument as clearly as I could for the reform we needed. And last March, again at TED, I announced the most ambitious plan this reform movement has ever had: that by Aaron’s 30th birthday — election day, 2016 — we would win a Congress committed to fundamental reform.
I’m writing you today to ask you to join this movement — now, because we now face a critical challenge that we must meet if this plan is going to work.
Our idea is to run this campaign in two stages — in 2014, with a pilot to test the strategy and prove we can win, and then in 2016, with a full scale campaign to win.
We estimate the cost of the 2014 plan will be $12 million, and we decided to raise at least 1/2 through a kickstarter-like campaign.
I set the initial goal at $1 million in 30 days.
We raised it in 13 days.
Now we have launched a second, and insanely more difficult campaign to raise $5 million by July 4. If we meet that goal, and I get it matched, then we have the funds we need to win the campaigns we need in 2014, on our way to winning in 2016.
We need your help. If you can pledge, please do. We will only collect you pledge if we hit the $5 million goal. And just as important, if you can spread this, please please do.
Very few believe we can do this. But I do. If we can get a million people to view our site, we will meet our goal.
You are part of the million person army that Aaron helped to build, and that the Demand Progress team now continues to grow. Aaron pushed me to make this my cause. Let me push you now to at least pledge.
Thank you for all you have done. And thank you especially if you can help us to do this critical bit too.
-Lawrence Lessig
Paid for by Demand Progress ( and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee. Contributions are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.

One last thing -- Demand Progress's small, dedicated, under-paid staff relies on the generosity of members like you to support our work. Will you click here to chip in $5 or $10? Or you can become a Demand Progress monthly sustainer by clicking here. Thank you!

--- End quote ---

Rust never sleeps.
I've posted this here because of its relevance to privacy of information (data). It's a post about the TISA (Trade In Services Agreement), which is apparently a tool being negotiated that will - amongst other things - force nations to ease up on financial market regulation and bring in more laissez-faire in perpetuity (as if there hadn't been enough of that already, on the lead up to the last Global Financial Theft Crisis). However, TISA looks to be something more - a sort of battering-ram to allow financial institutions and governments to grab national financial account data of customers and to heck with privacy and public services. I'm sure it's all in a good cause...    :o
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Details Leak On How Secret Global Treaty Will Force Countries To Further Deregulate Financial Sector
from the yet-another-ratchet dept

WikiLeaks has been rather quiet recently -- probably something to do with Julian Assange being stuck in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the last two years. But today, we saw a flash of the old, dangerous WikiLeaks, with its publication of a major leak concerning the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA). Although Techdirt wrote about this in April, for many this is the first time they have heard about this secretive deal, which has probably come as something of a shock given the global scale of its ambitions and its likely impact. Here's how WikiLeaks describes its latest release:

    Today, WikiLeaks released the secret draft text for the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) Financial Services Annex, which covers 50 countries and 68.2%1 of world trade in services. The US and the EU are the main proponents of the agreement, and the authors of most joint changes, which also covers cross-border data flow. In a significant anti-transparency manoeuvre by the parties, the draft has been classified to keep it secret not just during the negotiations but for five years after the TISA enters into force.

    Despite the failures in financial regulation evident during the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis and calls for improvement of relevant regulatory structures, proponents of TISA aim to further deregulate global financial services markets. The draft Financial Services Annex sets rules which would assist the expansion of financial multi-nationals -- mainly headquartered in New York, London, Paris and Frankfurt -- into other nations by preventing regulatory barriers. The leaked draft also shows that the US is particularly keen on boosting cross-border data flow, which would allow uninhibited exchange of personal and financial data.

The leaked document itself is pretty dry and inscrutable, so wisely WikiLeaks has asked an expert in the field, Professor Jane Kelsey of the Faculty of Law, University of Auckland, New Zealand, to provide a detailed commentary, and this is the best place to start when coming to grips with the leak. Here's her chilling summary:

    The secrecy of negotiating documents exceeds even the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and runs counter to moves in the WTO towards greater openness.

    The TISA is being promoted by the same governments that installed the failed model of financial (de)regulation in the WTO and which has been blamed for helping to fuel the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).

    The same states shut down moves by other WTO Members to critically debate these rules following the GFC with a view to reform.

    They want to expand and deepen the existing regime through TISA, bypassing the stalled Doha round at the WTO and creating a new template for future free trade agreements and ultimately for the WTO.

    TISA is designed for and in close consultation with the global finance industry, whose greed and recklessness has been blamed for successive crises and who continue to capture rulemaking in global institutions.

    A sample of provisions from this leaked text show that governments signing on to TISA will: be expected to lock in and extend their current levels of financial deregulation and liberalisation; lose the right to require data to be held onshore; face pressure to authorise potentially toxic insurance products; and risk a legal challenge if they adopt measures to prevent or respond to another crisis.

One of the most worrying features of the TISA proposals is the following:

    The crucial provision is Art X.4, which would apply a standstill to a country's existing financial measures that are inconsistent with the rules. That means governments must bind their existing levels of liberalization for foreign direct investment on financial services, cross-border provision of financial services and transfers of personnel. The current rules will be the most restrictive of financial services that a government would be allowed to use. They would be encouraged to bind in new liberalization beyond their status quo.

This is the familiar "ratchet" that we see in copyright law. Here, it means that restrictions on the financial industry can only be reduced, never increased, no matter how badly they screw up the global economy (again). Doubtless proponents of TISA will claim that signatories to the agreement will -- of course -- retain their sovereignty and ability to take "prudential measures" for the good of their people, just as they have said regarding corporate sovereignty in TPP and TAFTA/TTIP. But as Kelsey points, part of the leaked document shows that is simply not true:

    the article is comprised of two sentences that contradict each other. If a government takes a prudential measure that is inconsistent with the agreement, it cannot do so as a means to avoid its commitments under the agreement! So any prudential measures must be consistent with the other provisions in the agreement.

Put another way, governments will have total freedom to legislate in any way they please provided it is compatible with TISA -- which means that it must be in favor of the financial industry, not the public. Another section that is written entirely for the benefit of the financial companies, not the public, concerns the protection of personal data:

    nothing shall be construed to require a Party to disclose information regarding the affairs and accounts of individual consumers. That means TISA does not affect states' ability to require disclosure of information, presumably to the government, about individuals. It is not concerned with protecting personal privacy or preventing those who hold the personal data from abusing it for commercial or political purposes.

Given the sensitivity of data protection issues in Europe, this is likely to become a major stumbling block to the ratification of TISA by the European Parliament, assuming it gets that far. Indeed, it's significant that one of the leading German newspapers, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, used the headline "U.S. grab account data of European citizens" when reporting on the leak (original in German.) That underlines the fact that alongside the new information that the WikiLeaks document reveals about the secret negotiations, another important aspect of the leak is that the mainstream media in Europe are finally aware of TISA, and are likely now to start exploring critically its effect on key areas like privacy and public services.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Rust never sleeps.
-IainB (June 23, 2014, 10:31 AM)
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I'm glad you posted that article, because I certainly wasn't going to.

On a meta level, I posted in the Basement about "following the money". Not a relevant issue, and not a particularly interesting one, but an excellent example of the same sort of corruption.


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