It’s part of a massive campaign against the TPP in North America, led north of the border by CWA Canada.

By Errol Salamon

Communication Workers of America – Canada has organized a day of action against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which the union argues poses a particular threat to journalism and freedom of expression. An academic forum, a postcard campaign and free Rock Against the TPP concert are set for this Friday in Toronto.

It’s part of a massive campaign against the TPP in North America, led north of the border

by CWA Canada, a national union that exclusively represents about 8,000 media workers at major news organizations and newspapers across the country.

The TPP is a multinational trade deal between 12 governments throughout the Asia-Pacific region — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. It was organized behind closed doors by government representatives and hundreds of corporate lobbyists, with little public input from civil society organizations, the union notes. The TPP text has been written and Canada signed the final version on Feb. 4.

The CWA argues that the agreement’s vague wording on exposing trade secrets could allow for the targeting of journalists and media workers. Because of this, CWA Canada is leading efforts to convince the federal government that Parliament shouldn’t ratify it.

Were Canada to ratify the deal, the TPP would threaten freedom of expression, a cornerstone of our democracy, opponents charge.  In particular,  Article 18.78 of the Intellectual Property section on “Trade Secrets” could allow signatories to criminalize journalists and whistleblowers.

According to the text, “each Party shall provide for criminal procedures and penalties for one or more of the following:

  1. the unauthorised and wilful access to a trade secret held in a computer system;

(b) the unauthorised and wilful misappropriation of a trade secret, including by means of a computer system; or

(c) the fraudulent disclosure, or alternatively, the unauthorised and wilful disclosure, of a trade secret, including by means of a computer system.”

This article takes direct aim at  whistleblower organizations such as WikiLeaks, which publishes secret documents and news leaks that expose government and corporate misconduct. WikiLeaks disclosed parts of the TPP deal before they were made public on Nov. 5, 2015.

The TPP would also damage the economy, according to CWA. The union says it would drive down pay rates, threaten the existence of many well-paid jobs and make it easier for companies to move production to low-wage countries such as Vietnam, where some workers earn only 65 cents an hour. North American media companies could increasingly outsource their operations to content farms in Asia where workers earn these lower wages.

Additionally, the TPP would expand copyright terms. It would extend the copyright term from the life of an author plus 50 years to “not less than the life of the author and 70 years after the author’s death.” These expanded terms could limit artistic creativity for the general public and allow media corporations to control and profit from works for a longer period of time, CWA points out.

Another point of contention is that the deal could also usher in stricter rules on fair use. Fair use restrictions would make it harder for journalists to quote copyrighted sources in news articles, which is commonplace in journalism and helps to foster a well-informed citizenry.

TPP negotiations started in 2002 for what was called the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement. Canada joined TPP negotiations in 2012. It is the most significant trade pact Canada has negotiated since the North American Free Trade Agreement came into force in 1994.

Friday’s day of action is intended to inform the public and journalists of the TPP’s potentially detrimental effects and encourage them to oppose the deal. The hashtag #RockAgainstTheTPP is spreading the message on Twitter.

There will be an Academic Forum on the TPP with CWA Canada, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Doctors Without Borders; a TPP information picket with a postcard campaign to Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland; and a free anti-TPP concert with Anti-Flag and Rebel Diaz.

Errol Salamon is a CWA Canada Associate Member. A version of this article was originally written for and published on the CWA-Canada website.

Errol Salamon is a contributing editor at J-Source. He is a senior lecturer in digital media and communication in the department of media and performance at the University of Huddersfield. He taught in the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. Salamon is also co-editor of the book Journalism in Crisis: Bridging Theory and Practice for Democratic Media Strategies in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2016).