from the no-respect-at-all dept
Honestly, the whole thing is a scandal in the making.
In February, a bunch of groups representing public interests scheduled a public hearing about concerns with TPP in the same hotel where the TPP negotiations were going on... and the USTR apparently contacted the hotel and had them kicked out. The night before all of this? The negotiators went and partied at a Hollywood studio with the key lobbyists. Yeah, the USTR can't even stand to be in the same building as those concerned about the public, but will party with the lobbyists. A few weeks later, some big corporate interests hosted a dinner for ACTA negotiators. Public interest groups found out about it at the last minute and were told they were not welcome. When questioned about this in a Senate hearing, the USTR Ron Kirk took a totally condescending attitude, still insisting unprecedented transparency, even as Senator Wyden pointed out that wasn't even close to true.
And, of course, it gets even worse. One of the things that the USTR had talked about in the past was about how "transparent" they were when holding various "stakeholder" sessions that let people express their concerns. Of course, most of these are free-for-all's and they're positioned to limit the exposure of the concerns -- but at least there was some attempt in the past to offer people a voice. Not any more. As we noted recently, the US has done away with the stakeholder meeting. So the public interest groups are, once again, left out.
Now, the very latest is that during meetings in Chile, public interest groups once again sought to host a stakeholders meeting, and got an agreement to host it at the University of Chile School of Law. The whole thing was organized, and they even had a big name local politician signed up as the keynote speaker. The dean of the school was all for it... and then, two days before the meeting, the University canceled the meeting. Once again, the public interest groups were shut out. It's not entirely clear why, but there is tremendous speculation that the cancellation was due to a faculty member who consults heavily with the pharmaceutical industry.
Either way, it seems clear that there is influence peddling going on here, and it's astounding that the USTR seems to think that these moves won't backfire and just make it look worse. In talking to someone who was in Chile working with the public interest groups, it's been claimed that many of the delegates had no idea this would happen -- and were quite upset that the USTR had basically hijacked the process. The organizers of the event were actually able to find an alternative, but it is too bad that they had to spend days scrambling to figure this out.