No Free Trade Without a Free Internet

Negotiators and top decision-makers could be putting your digital rights at risk as part of the renegotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 1

We saw firsthand how the TPP was a disaster for digital rights and our democracies — and we can’t afford to let that happen with NAFTA.

We need to make sure that our voices are as loud as possible from the very beginning of this process: we cannot let NAFTA sacrifice our digital rights.

Read the full petition here

Minister Chrystia Freeland,
Ambassador Robert Lighthizer
Minister Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal

NAFTA has the potential to impact critical functions of the Internet, and if not properly addressed could significantly threaten innovation, access to information, the dissemination of news, cultural exchange, artistic creation and democratic organizing.

We call on the governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United States to reform the trade process to ensure that voices of the public are heard throughout the negotiations, and providing citizens access to negotiating texts, decision-makers, and real consultation is built into the process from the very beginning.

We also call on all three governments to ensure that where policies that affect the Internet are concerned, there are strong and enforceable provisions to protect the interests of Internet users and the public at large.

We ask you to fight the inclusion of rules that allow corporations to attack democratic policies in unaccountable tribunals. They threaten to undermine the ability of each country to craft regulations that are in the best interest of their citizens and residents, and undermine public trust in trade.

We saw firsthand how the TPP was a disaster for digital rights and our democracies — and we can’t afford to let that happen with NAFTA.

Any process that our governments engage in on our behalf must be founded in an open, transparent, and democratic process, while also protecting the Internet and our online rights that make such global connections possible.

Thank you

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The North American Free Trade Agreement — a multilateral trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico — is up for review.

We know from our experience with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that closed trade processes and pressure from well-funded industry lobbyists can leave us with agreements that put digital rights and innovation at risk. In fact, some have already gone as far as to tell the U.S. trade representative that they don’t even think NAFTA should include “balance” when it comes to draconian copyright laws that would endanger free expression online.2

As negotiators begin meeting this week to discuss the future of NAFTA, digital rights organizations and individuals from across our three nations also need to come together to ensure that we have our voices heard in this critical process.

The United States Trade Representative has been very clear that digital trade is top of its agenda for these negotiations,3 and that means we’ll have to vigorously defend against policies that attack access to information, the dissemination of news, cultural expression, and democratic organizing.

Transparency and Accountability

Without a major overhaul of how trade is negotiated, we will be left with more of the same: secret negotiations, no access to key decision-makers, and a process where lobbyists dominate the conversation, advocating for increasingly harsh copyright rules and other policies that restrict free expression and crush innovation.

We need to do things differently this time.

Digital Rights

Internet users' digital rights faced a huge threat under the TPP — in particular thanks to extreme copyright rules demanded by Big Media lobbyists.4

We know that the Internet is critical to our ability to express ourselves, to share information and culture, and to access knowledge. But we also know that companies are looking for ways to smuggle rules to drastically increase enforcement measures for rightsholders, create longer copyright terms, and demand harsh infringement penalties, without any balance towards the public interest.  

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Rules that allow corporations to attack democratic policies in unaccountable tribunals are unacceptable. They threaten to undermine the ability of each country to craft regulations that are best for their citizens and residents, and we should not and will not stand for this.

We saw firsthand how the TPP was a disaster for digital rights and our democracies — and we can’t afford to let that happen with NAFTA.

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Footnotes:

[1] NAFTA negotiations to get underway as U.S. officials meet in Washington. Source: Toronto Star

[2] “…we strongly urge USTR to not include “balance” language similar to what appeared in the TPPor any reference to vague, open-ended limitations.” Read the full letter here

[3] “...two subjects that have been allotted the most discussion time over the first five days are investment, including Canada’s goal to roll back rules that allow corporations to sue governments, and the digital economy.” Source: The Globe and Mail [paywalled]

[4] How the TPP Will Affect You and Your Digital Rights. Source: EFF

Speak up now to ensure NAFTA does not become the new TPP.

 

 

 

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