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TPP trade deal ready for final approval as digital rights groups sound warning

After five years of marathon talks, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has finally been agreed to. But as trade leaders take the hard sell back home, civil liberties advocates say the deal is bad news for digital rights.

In leaking draft chapters of the TPP, Wikileaks criticised negotiations. Wikileaks

After more than 5 years, negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership have finally concluded, with all 12 countries involved signing off to support the major trade deal ahead of any domestic treaty negotiation that needs to take place in each country.

A massive international treaty affecting 36 percent of global GDP, the TPP has been thrashed out between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

While the trade deal cuts tariffs for the likes of auto manufacturers and dairy, beef and sugar exporters, it also has massive implications for digital copyright, piracy and internet freedom. A leaked chapter on intellectual property showed the stakes of the game for countries negotiating the TPP. The draft text that spoke of "criminal procedures and penalties" for copyright infringement has been dubbed .

Read our full guide on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its implications for digital rights here.

With speculation growing about the winners and losers across industries and continents, signatory nations are each touting the trade benefits of the deal to producers and businesses on home soil.

Australian trade minister Andrew Robb said the TPP "will slash barriers to Australian goods exports, services and investment" and enhance the country's competitiveness, while the US has taken a similar line back home, saying the deal "bolsters US leadership," "supports US jobs and growth" and "promotes US values."

But while talks finally wrapped overnight in Atlanta, Georgia, trade leaders still need to gain approval for the TPP from governments back home through their respective domestic treaty-making processes.

For Australia, Minister Robb says this will involve tabling the text of the TPP in Parliament along with a "National Interest Analysis." The trade deal will also be subject to a review by Australia's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties "to which all interested parties can make submissions."

The TPP will need to clear similar hurdles in other nations, including in the US, where the deal is widely seen as a major potential legacy of Barack Obama's presidency. While the US Senate voted in June to give Congress the power to "fast track" the TPP, guaranteeing a 'yes-or-no' vote without giving Congress the power to amend specifics, the final seal of approval is still far from guaranteed stateside.

US leaders have joined the chorus of voices worldwide criticising the lack of transparency in the deal-making process, saying that even policy makers and politicians have been kept in the dark over the substance of the TPP text.

Indeed, the detail of the TPP remains a secret. The only detail on the specifics in the text of the deal has come via documents leaked by Wikileaks.

In the US, the Electronic Frontiers Foundation has slammed the deal and the associated secrecy saying, "We have no reason to believe that the TPP has improved much at all from the last leaked version released in August," and that nothing will change until the text is released.

"So as long as it contains a retroactive 20-year copyright term extension, bans on circumventing DRM, massively disproportionate punishments for copyright infringement, and rules that criminalize investigative journalists and whistleblowers, we have to do everything we can to stop this agreement from getting signed, ratified, and put into force."

Australia's trade minister has advised that negotiating parties are currently "finalising arrangements for the release of the TPP text, and it will be released well in advance of signature."