USTR: By Making People Testify About TPP Text They Cannot See... We're Being Transparent
from the say-it-with-me:-w-t-f? dept
Jamie Love has provided the testimony he gave at a USTR hearing concerning Mexico and Canada's entrance into the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) agreement. As you hopefully recall, the agreement is being negotiated in secret... unless you happen to be a high level lobbyist. Then you get widespread access, which Love calls out:
The contempt for the public is all the more clear when USTR carries out an extensive system of briefing corporate interests on the nature of the proposals it makes in the negotiations, and openly embraces a double standard for access that can best be understood by the public when looking at the amount of money that various parties dump into political campaigns, in part to obtain this type of preferred access. According to USTR, the Advisory board for intellectual property rights is chaired by Richard Kjeldgaard, the Deputy Vice President, International Intellectual Property, PhRMA. That pretty much sums up how this process is perceived. The fact that the Obama Administration cares more about PhRMA than the public as regards access to information is a great disappointment.But the really insane part about all of this was that it was asking for hearings from people who don't know what's in the text, because they can't see the text because the USTR refuses to release the text. That resulted in some awkward exchanges:
In Eric Schwartz of IIPA's testimony, he claims that the 3-step test applies to all exceptions, including those like the quotation or news of the day exceptions, which are mandatory. When State asks him a question about the TPP text, Scwartz says he has only seen the leaked text. Exchange illustrates the ackward nature of asking for comments on a secret text.But, much more ridiculous is that the USTR took the farce, and then bizarrely claimed that this hearing, in which people who can't see the text were asked to talk about it, shows how transparent they're being about this process:
“USTR is committed to transparency in trade negotiations,” said Ambassador Kirk. “Today’s hearing is a good example of our engagement with interested stakeholders and members of the public. As the TPP negotiations progress, we will continue to ensure that all interested parties have an opportunity to express their views.”How many times does it need to be said? That's not transparency. Inviting a bunch of people who can't see the text to comment on what might be in the text might be considered some weird form of "hearing from the public" but transparency is not about hearing from the public -- it's about showing the public what you're doing. It's about information flowing in the other direction which appears to be something that Ron Kirk and the USTR do not understand. At what point will a reporter interviewing Kirk, or perhaps an elected official, ask the basic question of how keeping something secret is transparent? Or ask him if he can explain the difference between hearing from people and being transparent. Because they're very, very different. And it seems immensely troubling that a massive trade agreement that will have far reaching implications is being negotiated in complete secrecy (unless you're a big industry player, of course) by someone who doesn't even understand what transparency means.