The TPP is thought to threathen fan-made creations such as those offered in the Comic Market (photo by Kevin W.)
The TPP is thought to threathen fan-made creations such as those offered in the Comic Market (photo by Kevin W.)

During his visit to the United States from October 25 to 29, President Joko Widodo declared that Indonesia intends to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is an international cooperation on free trade and market liberalization policies that involves twelve countries in the Pacific Rim; the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Australia, and New Zealand. Having been through protracted negotiations, the agreement was reached in October 5, 2015.

Following President Joko Widodo’s declaration, KAORI ran an article that explains about the TPP in quite detail. The article particularly highlighted the various contentious issues regarding the agreement. In brief, the issues include the secrecy of the negotiations and the lack of transparency on the agreement draft; standardization of copyright and intellectual property (IP) rights laws and enforcement that lacks fair use provisions; provisions that threaten to extend the control of pharmaceutical companies on patented medicines, keeping cheaper generic drugs from becoming available sooner; and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism that could potentially be used by corporations to demand compensation for the loss of profits from regulations that are made to protect the public from harmful products and corporate activities.

It may seem odd that an online media focusing on Japanese entertainment like KAORI provides a relatively comprehensive explanation of the controversies regarding an issue in the field of international economy. However, considering how the discourse on TPP develops in Indonesian context, particularly among anime and manga fans, it might be a considerably important act to take.

In general, there is still a lack of awareness and knowledge about TPP among Indonesians, including among the youths. Some of the youths who happen to know about the TPP on the other hand, are anime and manga fans. They became aware of TPP because of concerns regarding possible changes to Japan’s copyright laws, such as from the manga creator Ken Akamatsu (Love Hina, Negima). There are worries that the possible changes would allow for the prosecution of copyright infringing activities such as dōjinshi (fan-made publications that feature characters from established IPs) or cosplay, without the consent of the right holders. Rights holders usually tolerate those activities rather than prosecuting them. These concerns have been reported by various media focusing on anime and manga, not only among western media such as ANN, but also among Indonesian media including KAORI.

From those media coverages, Indonesian anime and manga fans became aware of TPP. However, this awareness is mostly limited to just knowing that TPP is a threat to fan-made creations. Now that some interest in joining the TPP has been formally announced by Indonesia’s decision makers, it is important to build upon that awareness into a more complete understanding of the problems of TPP that should be of concerns for Indonesians, which extends well beyond mere possible prosecutions of dōjinshi and cosplay, into critically important public interests and needs.

Such discourse intervention became valuable even more when considering that the discussions on TPP covered by major national newspaper Kompas, mainly talked about calculations of potential trade benefits and loss, as well as measuring Indonesia’s preparedness to join TPP and when is the time Indonesia would be ready. This is a narrow and even possibly naïve discourse, as the TPP is more about politics rather than simply trade. Joseph Stiglitz for example, said that TPP is not really “free trade”, but rather a managed trade on behalf of the participating countries’ corporate lobbies. There are interests for control at play in this issue, and it has consequences to public interests that need to be made known and discussed publicly. The ISDS clauses issue is of interest, because the number of ISDS claims has been on the rise in the past two decades, leading to some countries to consider withdrawing from treaties containing ISDS clauses. In light of that, the presence of ISDS clauses in the TPP is suspect.

Thinking in political terms, the timing of President Joko Widodo’s remark about joining the TPP is also of concern. Although it has been agreed by the negotiators, the TPP still needs to pass through the parliaments of its participating countries, and the US Congress has yet to vote on it. In this context, what if the declaration of Indonesia’s intention to join the TPP could be played by US President Obama to convince the Congress to accept the TPP, to argue that the TPP becomes even more important for the US with another Pacific Rim country with a large market is interested to join? Indonesia shouldn’t be falling into being used as a bargaining chip for other countries’ domestic politics like that.

Would improving the awareness of anime and manga fans on this issue have any significant influence on the direction of Indonesia’s trade policy? It will be hard to tell. But as the media, we have the responsibility to not let the public trapped in ignorance about what are at stake on this issue.

Halimun M.
General Manager The Indonesia Anime Times

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