The TPP would have prevented countries from blocking how companies share data across borders.
The TPP itself was a massive 30-chapter lawbook that would have freed access to markets for things like car manufacturing, data storage, online commerce, intellectual property and medicines.
Hoards of technology and media companies supported the trade deal. Google was pro TPP. As was Microsoft, Apple and Facebook. The Motion Picture Association of America supported it too. The deal would have allowed them to make it easier to store user data across borders, offer stricter copyright protections and clamp down on digital pirating.
President-elect Donald Trump positioned his opposition to the trade deal as one of the defining issues of his campaign. He compared the TPP to the North American Free Trade Agreement of the 1990s that allowed U.S. manufacturers to move jobs to Mexico.
President Obama, on the other hand, was betting on the trade accord to be a part of his foreign policy legacy, refocusing the American economy toward Asian countries and hedging against China’s growing power. But after Trump’s unexpected win, there are no hopes for the Republican majority Congress to ratify it. China, meanwhile, has a trade deal of its own the country is hoping to pass in the wake of the TPP’s failure.
Now that deal is off the table, the large companies that supported it will have to go back to the foreign policy drawing board.
Here’s what American technology companies would have gotten had the deal been finalized.
- The TPP’s e-commerce chapter included the world’s first set of international trade rules that would have barred governments from blocking how companies share data across national borders. The internet works by freely moving data across the world. It’s how an artist in Mexico is able to have a fanbase in the U.K. just by posting a video on YouTube. Now governments can impose laws on how data is ferried outside of their country, potentially blocking content and balkanizing the internet. On the flip side, technology companies cooperate with digital surveillance operations across borders too, and the TPP would have muddled the way countries would have been able to pass national privacy laws.
- In many of the participating countries it is not currently illegal to break the digital rights management, a digital lock that technology companies can add to their products to prevent piracy, tinkering and repair. But DRM is easy to circumvent, and hackers as well as media pirates have found ways to break to digital locks to make pirated copies of movies and music. In the U.S., it’s illegal to break DRM under copyright law, and the TPP would have expanded that internationally. Several countries would have had to make bans for repairing or tinkering with software or devices if DRM was circumvented, which would have been a win for the digital music and movie industry’s battle against piracy, as well as device manufacturers.
- Six of the twelve participating countries would have expanded their copyright terms an additional 20 years. Under the TPP, it would have taken over 70 years for a copyrighted work to enter the public domain, which is what happens when a song or film is so old that it’s legal to access it for free.
- Tech companies also were in favor of the TPP’s ban on “forced localization,” or laws that require a company to keep its citizens’ user data stored within its borders. Technology companies oppose these statutes on the grounds that they inhibit their increasingly cloud-based business models. When a country requires that data generated in the country stay stored within its borders, tech companies are forced to build data centers there in order to do business. Forced localization could also open a technology company or website to being compelled to follow a country’s censorship laws by dint of operating servers there.