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U.S. Trade Representative Defends Pending Trade Pact After WikiLeaks Disclosure

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, touring Paramount’s backlot on Friday, refuted reports that a proposed trade pact between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries would be an attempt to impose provisions of ill-fated antipiracy legislation that stalled out in Congress early last year.

Following WikiLeaks’ disclosure of an August draft of a portion of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, some digital rights groups have sounded the alarm over the pact, arguing that the provisions in the draft will limit Internet freedom. The sites TorrentFreak and BoingBoing compared it to the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was sidelined in Congress in the face of an online protest, while groups like Free Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have condemned its provisions.

But Froman, in a brief interview, said that “what we have in there are things that are already in U.S. law about making sure, whether it is copyright or other protections, are fully enforced around the world.”

“For example, as I understand it, I wasn’t around for it, (the Stop Online Piracy Act) was about blocking rogue Internet sites from accessing the Internet from the United States. There is nothing in the Trans Pacific Partnership, zero, that has anything to do with that,” he said.

He added that the agreement would be to “ensure that if a creative artist or others have intellectual property rights that are recognized that those are enforced.”

The MPAA on Thursday issued a statement cautioning that it was “important to be clear that the text circulated is not final.”

Froman also said that he was “not sure if (the leaked draft) was a legitimate draft or not.” He also said noted that it dates from August, and “so it doesn’t necessarily reflect the current stage of negotiations.”

“There is no agreement right now,” he said. “Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to, and nothing will be agreed to until 3 a.m. on the last night of negotiations.”

Froman on Friday also went to the Disney lot to meet with studio executives to talk about trade and the Trans Pacific pact.

“Our goal through these trade negotiations is to make sure we are raising the standard of protection around the world, for artists and the people who support them,” he said.

He also called the talks over the trade pact “the most transparent trade negotiation in history,” noting that they have held more than 1,000 briefings on Capitol Hill, have enlisted 600 advisers for input from various groups and have invited stakeholders to address negotiators from all 12 countries, among other efforts. Representatives from both parties this week sent letters to President Obama expressing concerns that they were not being consulted about its provisions, which address not just intellectual property but a host of other trade issues including access to markets.

The countries have set a goal of reaching agreement by the end of the year.

At Paramount, Froman, along with his son, toured a construction and lighting shop on the lot, as well as a sound mixing stage where he watched a clip from the next “Anchorman” movie, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.” He also visited the set of Nickelodeon’s “The Thundermans” and posed for pictures with the cast. With him on the tour were Paramount COO Frederick Huntsberry, exec VP Michael Romano and IATSE Third International VP Thomas Davis.

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