The Senate passed a bill Friday night to put the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the Fast Track to approval. Its passage followed a series of stops and starts—an indication that this legislation was nearly too rife with controversy to pass. But after a series of deals and calls from corporate executives, senators ultimately swallowed their criticism and accepted the measure. If this bill ends up passing both chambers of Congress, that means the White House can rush the TPP through to congressional ratification, with lawmakers unable to fully debate or even amend agreements that have been negotiated entirely in secret. On the plus side, all of these delays in the Senate has led other TPP partners to delay any further negotiations on the trade agreement until Fast Track is approved by Congress.
So the fight now starts in the House, where proponents of secret trade deals still lack the votes to pass the bill. But the White House and other TPP proponents are fiercely determined to garner enough support among representatives to pass the bill, in order to give themselves almost unilateral power to enact extreme digital regulations in secret. We cannot let that happen.
In the House, we still have a chance to block the passage of Fast Track. That's why we are asking people in the U.S. to meet with their representatives and staff to nudge them to make the right decision. Back in DC, they may have heard arguments for and against the TPP. Your representative might think this so-called trade agreement is just about free trade, but they might not know how the copyright provisions and other leaked proposals in the TPP threaten the Internet, as well as users, developers, and start-ups across the country.
Lawmakers have headed back to their home district for the Memorial Day recess, so there's a chance you, as a constituent, can meet with them. Absent that, you can visit their district staff who can receive and forward on your concerns to your representative even after lawmakers go back to the Capitol. They will be receptive to the concerns of smart, tech-savvy constituents who care enough to arrange a meeting.
We know there's a big difference between calling and writing to your congressperson, and actually talking to them face-to-face. But this is a vital moment, and there's a fighting chance that your decision to meet with your representative's office could make all the difference.
If you're interested, read this guide on how to set up a meeting with your lawmakers. We also prepared a hand out with talking points for you to take with you when you go. We also encourage you to tell them about our letter with 250 tech companies and user rights groups urging Congress to oppose the TPP Fast Track for containing provisions that threaten digital innovation and users.
Powerful corporate interests like the Motion Picture Association of America, Recording Industry Association of America, and the Business Software Alliance are intent on having anti-user trade deals pass without proper oversight. That's because the policies they're pushing for couldn't otherwise pass in a participatory, transparent process. It's up to us to stop this massive, secret corporate hand out, and we're going to need all the help we can get.
If you end up meeting with your representative or their staff, please email email@example.com to let us know how it went!
And of course, you can also take action by getting in touch with your congressional representatives online, and letting them know that we're counting on them to defend the Internet from the White House's secret, anti-user deals.