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Obama Gave eBay a Voice on TPP, Now Pitches Its Sellers

eBay had the President’s ear on trade issues during the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and on Thursday, eBay provided a platform for Obama to speak to its sellers about the agreement, which is before Congress.

It’s no surprise eBay is in favor of the deal – former eBay CEO and current Chairman of the Board of PayPal John Donahoe is a member of the President’s Export Council, which advises the president on international trade issues.

On Thursday, eBay’s grassroots lobbying program called eBay Main Street published a letter from President Obama in which he told sellers how the TPP would benefit small businesses and urged them to read the TPP.

eBay itself had already weighed in on the issue of TPP in late October before the agreement was published. Like other large corporations, it’s enthusiastic about the deal that has been harshly criticized for being negotiated under a shroud of secrecy.

The TPP is an agreement between 12 Pacific Rim countries (it does not include China), and even the process of ratifying the agreement is surrounded by controversy.

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Mainstream press may believe that if eBay supports the deal, it automatically means it’s good for small businesses in the United States. However, eBay represents large brands, manufacturers, and retail chains – and it makes money from businesses that export goods to the United States.

Sellers love the idea of minimizing tariffs and duties, as they present unwelcome surprises to overseas customers. But smaller sellers may feel the deal will benefit larger retailers much more than it will benefit them.

Smaller merchants feel they face a lot of competition from Asia-based sellers especially on marketplaces like eBay, Etsy, Amazon – and they may feel that opening trading to Asia may not present a lot of opportunity to them at this time given the challenges they face in exporting to Asia (language, shipping costs, ability to track packages, knowledge of each countries’ regulations/bans, and overall comfort level).

The agreement also carries provisions around Intellectual Property, privacy, and governance that have many people concerned.

Because the TPP is a lengthy and complicated deal and was only made public a week ago, many experts are still combing through it and have yet to weigh in since its publication on November 5th.

One organization who spoke out against it immediately was the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been parsing through an earlier version that had been leaked 2 weeks prior to its official release.

“If there’s one thing we can take away from this, it’s that the TPP’s secretive, lobbyist-controlled policymaking process has led to a deal that upholds corporate rights and interests at the direct expense of all of our digital rights,” the EFF wrote. And, it said, “government officials need to hear from us loud and clear that we won’t stand by and let them trade away our rights to powerful multinational corporations.”

A column in the LA Times is worth perusing if you’re interested in learning more on the topic.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.