Bi-Lateral Free Trade Agreements

  • What are they?
  • Library concerns with openness of trade negotiation process
  • Current draft and signed treaties
    • U.S.--Chile Free Trade Agreement
    • U.S.--Singapore Free Trade Agreement
    • U.S.--Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement
    • U.S.--Bahrain Free Trade Agreement
    • U.S.--Andean Free Trade Agreement
    • U.S.--Panama Free Trade Agreement
    • U.S.-Thailand Free Trade Agreement

    What are they?
    Bi-lateral free trade agreements form part of the web of international agreements that the U.S. makes with other nations in matters that relate to common trade or service issues. These treaties are part of U.S. policy to foster meaningful trade relationships throughout the world. In addition to the Free Trade Area of the Americas Agreement (FTAA), which is currently being negotiated, there are other FTAs in various stages of negotiation or conclusion by the U.S. Trade Representative.

    The bi-lateral treaties cover a broad scope of subjects including intellectual property rights, non-immigrant professionals, and domain names on the Internet. As the trend in international trade agreements seems to favor a copyright regime more favorable to copyright holders, U.S. libraries are concerned that the more the U.S. enters into such agreements, the more difficult it will be to persuade Congress to amend the more controversial provisions of the DMCA to achieve a more balanced law.
    Library concerns with openness of trade negotiation process
    Libraries are among many organizations and business interests that are affected by the outcome of trade negotiations. However, the existing process for gaining access to draft treaty language and information about the negotiations has not been open and inclusive. The libraries sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative (October 29, 2003) urging him to improve opportunities for stakeholder participation in the trade negotiation process.

    Library Associations' letter to the USTR (pdf)

    Current draft and signed treaties
    • U. S. - Chile Free Trade Agreement
    • U. S. - Singapore Free Trade Agreement
    Both agreements signed by President Bush in 2003. Part of these agreements relates to copyright. The inclusion of intellectual property provisions obligates each nation to accept existing international standards as part of the treaty terms.
    • ALA is concerned that some of the Chapter 17 (U.S.- Chile) and Chapter 16 (U.S. Singapore) provisions are similar to restrictive provisions in the U.S. DMCA and therefore actually exceed TRIPS standards.
    • ALA opposed the agreement's acceptance of the U.S. standard for duration of copyright (life of the author plus 70 years) rather than the international standard (life of the author plus 50 years).
    Both treaties are currently under consideration. Libraries have submitted comments to the U.S. Trade Representative.
    • Libraries favor intellectual property rights protections that do not impair the ability of the U.S. government to enable libraries to preserve intellectual works, share them with one another, and provide public access to them through lending and the Internet.
    • The U.S. must continue to have the flexibility to enable libraries to keep pace with developments in information technology.
    • The FTAs must not impinge the ability of Congress and the U.S. courts to adjust copyright law to maintain an appropriate balance between the interests of rights holders and the public.
    • The FTAs must also allow local, state and federal government support for libraries to continue through subsidies and other forms of public assistance and to keep pace with technological developments.
    The Office of the USTR has requested public comments on the proposed free trade negotiations.
    • FTA must not prevent U.S. law from enabling key library services such as preservation, fair use, public access to materials through lending and the Internet.
    • Libraries must continue to have the ability to respond flexibly to changing technology.
    • Congress and the U.S. courts must be able to adjust copyright law to maintain the balance between interests of rights holders and the public.