Learning From ACTA: Will TAFTA/TTIP Be More Transparent Than TPP?

from the hope-springs-eternal dept

Recently we wrote about the growing calls for transparency during the TPP negotiations. It's still early days for TAFTA/TTIP, but already there are some signs that senior politicians are becoming aware that transparency is no longer some minor aspect of these trade talks, but a hugely important issue in itself. We know this thanks to an earlier fight by the European Digital Rights (EDRi) group to obtain from the European Parliament various documents relating to ACTA -- the result of an infamously opaque process. Its complaint was directed to the little-known European Ombudsman:

an independent and impartial body that holds the EU administration to account. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in EU institutions, bodies, offices, and agencies. Only the Court of Justice of the European Union, acting in its judicial capacity, falls outside the Ombudsman's mandate. The Ombudsman may find maladministration if an institution fails to respect fundamental rights, legal rules or principles, or the principles of good administration.
However, in this case the European Parliament explained that it was bound by a confidentiality agreement that had been negotiated by the European Commission, and was therefore unable to release the requested ACTA documents. Here's what the EU Ombudsman had to say on this:
The Ombudsman accepted this explanation, but advised Parliament to ensure that the Commission and the Council do not sign confidentiality agreements in the future that could undermine Parliament's ability to deliberate openly on such issues.
That advice in itself is noteworthy, since it specifically discourages the use of confidentiality agreements that might hamper transparency. In reply, the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, explained:
in the context of the TTIP negotiations, no confidentiality agreement has been signed with the US. The negotiators instead committed to implementing the EU's access to documents rules. Schulz wrote that the Commission took the unprecedented step of publishing important documents at the start of the TTIP process and invited stakeholders to submit their views. He promised to keep reminding the Commission that a pro-active approach is needed to keep the public informed about the state of play in all such negotiations.
What exactly "keeping the public informed" about the TAFTA/TTIP negotiations means in practice is open to interpretation. But again, there's no denying that at least some progress is evident here. For a start, unlike with ACTA, there is no formal confidentiality agreement that politicians can point to as an excuse for not releasing documents. And more generally there is a recognition that transparency is a vitally important aspect of the negotiations that can no longer be ignored, even if it will still be resisted.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    alan turing, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 3:51am

    sunshine on a cloudy day

    a day without transparency is like a day without starshine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 5:08am

    Re: sunshine on a cloudy day

    Any day without open, transparent access is a huge success for the Corporate Soviets in America, and elsewhere.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Chris-Mouse (profile), Feb 19th, 2014 @ 5:25am

    The transparency policy will change. They're going to switch from using the USTR's version of transparency to using the NSA's version of transparency.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 5:46am

    the 'keeping the public informed' is still very worrying as it could be taken that the information is only passed to the public after negotiations on each step have completed, leaving absolutely no way for public representing groups to still have input. as has been said here many times, it's no good just listening to public views and opinions if no notice is actually taken! being the biggest stake holder in all these so-called 'Trade Agreements', the public should have the greatest say! they are at least more sensible, more fair than any particular industry, service or corporation. they want everything while giving nothing! that is what pisses the people off so much and so often!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 5:57am

    3 Blind Mice Transparency Act 2014
    Rule 1. We don't talk about Transparency
    Rule 2. If you can't see the forest through the trees , you will be fine
    Rule 3. Glass Houses need lots of blinds and curtains
    Rule 4. There is no trade agreement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 9:27am

    What exactly "keeping the public informed" about the TAFTA/TTIP negotiations means in practice is open to interpretation.

    That's what worries me. The last thing we want is the TTP/USTR version of "transparency" where only the lobbyists get a say and we only learn about what's happening after the deal is done.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 12:41pm

     "Will TAFTA/TTIP Be More Transparent Than TPP?"

    i cant help but think, that, that is a redundant question

    uhh...mmmm.....no?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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