DEBATE: That the TPP will harm Asia's growing digital economies

Meeting report
What was your contribution to the event?: 

Last night forty participants at the 18th round of TPP negotiations, joined by webcast participants from around the world, came together to participate in debating the proposition, That the TPP will harm Asia's growing digital economies.

Organised by Consumers International and Digital News Asia, with the support of the Our Fair Deal Coalition, the purpose of the debate was to shed some light on the claims and counter-claims about the effects that the TPP will actually have on Asian economies and the consumers whom those economies serve.

What outcomes do you have to report?: 

The team that argued for the affirmative proposition consisted of Angela McDougall from Australian consumer group CHOICE (the only non-Malaysian panelist), Khairul Yusof from the transparency and anti-corruption NGO Sinar Project, and open source microprocessor engineer and entrepreneur, Shawn Tan. Their arguments focused mainly on the harsh intellectual property rules that have been proposed under the agreement, which they said would impact on a range of economic activity that depends upon the free use and reuse of digital information. They also noted that the secrecy of the agreement is arousing a great deal of fear.

On the negative team were A Asohan from Digital News Asia, and Sabahan tech entrepreneurs Dr James Alin and Darwin Tan. They agreed that much fear had been stoked by the secrecy of the agreement, but maintained that this was not entirely warranted. They claimed that the harsh IP rules would impact mainly on piracy activities that don't contribute value to the economy (a proposition that the affirmative team, in rebuttal, rejected; pointing to the economic value to Malaysia of video devices that can play DRM-free video files). The negative team also drew attention to broader effects of the agreement, that could reduce barriers to trade in digital products and services between Asian economies.

A recess was held for voting and refreshments, as well as discussion and networking. This was an excellent opportunity for stakeholders to mingle, including high-level representatives from government, industry and civil society. Amongst the national delegations present were those from Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand and the United States, as well as television, print and online media from Malaysia, Japan and the United States.

In the end the result was nail-biting: the moderator explained that if everyone present had voted, 21 votes would have been required to ensure victory. Announcing that the affirmative team had received 16 votes, it seemed that a negative victory was assured. But he then revealed that the negative team had in fact received 13 votes, leaving the affirmative team as the victors!

Whilst perhaps not everyone left convinced that the TPP would harm Asia's growing digital economies, it was at least agreed that the event had left participants with much food for thought and had provided a valuable opportunity for networking between stakeholders that would lead to further consultations and discussions as the TPP negotiations continue.

Event details
Hosting institution: 
Consumers International and Digital News Asia
Event dates: 
Thu, 18/07/2013 - 19:00 - 21:00
Event location: 
Function Room 6, Level 3, The Pacific Sutera, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Attending organisation: 
Consumers International

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