USTR: We Can't Be Open About ACTA Because We Promised We Wouldn't Be (*Lobbyists Not Included)

from the missing-the-point dept

The US Trade Rep apparently has a thing on their website called “ask the ambassador” and Robin alerts us that recently a “James from Virginia” asked a rather important question:

“If the United States government gives all other governments in the ACTA negotiation a copy of a text, what is the rationale for keeping this a secret from the American public? Why would a negotiation at ACTA be less transparent than negotiations at World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) or the World Trade Organization (WTO)?”

The USTR’s answer is really a convenient non-answer. It basically says that it can’t reveal the details because everybody promised not to do so. Of course, that doesn’t explain why so many lobbyists have such detailed access to the info, and why other countries have revealed the details of the negotiations. The answer that “this is how we do things” isn’t particularly reassuring when corporations and diplomats are basically negotiating basic civil rights.

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Comments on “USTR: We Can't Be Open About ACTA Because We Promised We Wouldn't Be (*Lobbyists Not Included)”

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33 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

…why other countries have revealed the details of the negotiations.

What countries have revealed the “details” and where can these “details” for each country be found?

In all candor, I am struggling with why some believe that access by “lobbyists” (somewhat of a misnomer since most are corporate employees according the the USTR website) is problematic. Access on matters governed by the relevant Presidential Executive Order in most instances does include members of the private sector who are appropriately vetted before access is granted.

No matter what may come out of these negotiations, the resulting workproduct will still have to comport with US law and must receive the approval of the Senate by a 2/3 vote.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Access on matters governed by the relevant Presidential Executive Order in most instances does include members of the private sector who are appropriately vetted before access is granted.”

Oh, and the public sector has no interest in these matters? But of course, big corporations are the only ones who have rights anymore and ONLY their interests count. Everyone elses interest don’t count.

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I am struggling with why some believe that access by “lobbyists” (somewhat of a misnomer since most are corporate employees according the the USTR website) is problematic.

What is problematic is granting exclusive access to established corporate interests to information in trade negotiations. When one corporation’s lobbyist is given access to policy negotiations, that information should rightly be opened to all competitors and potential competitors (i.e. every citizen in the U.S.). Closed door exclusive negotiations basically define corruption.

What is also problematic is how the government seems to have stopped legislating and working for citizens, and started working for corporations and “consumers”. But this is a much larger issue that would best be dealt with by simply throwing out the entire apparatus (so-called “two party”) currently dominating our government.

MattP says:

Re: Re: Re:

“What is also problematic is how the government seems to have stopped legislating and working for citizens, and started working for corporations and ‘consumers’.”

Welcome to the last 30 years.

While I completely agree with what you’re saying the real problem is the vast majority of the American public is disengaged while corporations are hyper-engaged in these issues.

Anonymous Coward says:

“No matter what may come out of these negotiations, the resulting workproduct will still have to comport with US law and must receive the approval of the Senate by a 2/3 vote”

First, Treaties DO NOT have to comport to US Law, What planet do you live on.. US law as passed by states and Congress must comport to US Treaties. Treaties Trump US Law. Once any treaty is passed, the cast will be sealed. It will be almost IMPOSSIBLE to go back. When was the last time a passed treaty was abrograted?

Trust me, there will be minimal hearings and no ability to amend or modify. Every Senators will find some reason why they can’t vote against it because of some corporation in its(sic) district that will claim great benefits. Tey are the whores that are historically been pushing stupid IP law … with Hatch as the king penis.

The stupid dumb F*%* that agreed to have “secret” trade treaties and then the King Dump F$&* claiming national security to defined against a FOIA should be sent to Cuba.

There is very little value being created within 20 miles of Washington DC and a whole lot of hubris and whoring that sadly will only end with the final decline of the US as a society, a power and a “good” place for someone with ambition and desire to work and create to live in.

I have no desire to be around 20 years from now when I will naturally die and I am scared what my children will inherit form this degenerate society of greed from $100 Billion corps that need a 70 year old Mickey Mouse to make money to people too stupid to understand they are too poor to buy a house to newpapers that can’t relate to the internet and demanding the “Government” Fix it . Screw all them all.

I don’t want to be around as they finally discover that there is no more “fixes”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

…I am scared what my children will inherit form this degenerate society of greed from $100 Billion corps that need a 70 year old Mickey Mouse to make money to people too stupid to understand they are too poor to buy a house…

Well, I have lots of stock in those corporations so that I and my children will have plenty of money to buy houses and hire little people like your children to do any dirty work that needs to be done. That’s the way it works. It’s called capitalism and there’s not a thing you can do about it. So long sucker.

Luci says:

Our government needs to understand that we will no longer tolerate laws and ‘treaties’ that are made in private. We are returning to the days of the revolution when the government enacted unfair taxes and practices because they could. Because they were the government, and people did as they were told. This is OUR country, as well. We cannot and will not tolerate a governing body that does not listen to the people who put them in power, and whose money they are spending.

Robin (profile) says:

Re: Make a Difference

“Our government needs to understand that we will no longer tolerate laws and ‘treaties’ that are made in private.”

Here’s how you can do so:

http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/press-office/ask-ambassador

For instance, I sent a very polite letter to Ambassador Kirk strongly informing him of my view that secret talks with corporate lobbyists does not qualify as sovereign-to-sovereign negotiating.

Imagine if Techdirt’s entire readership did so. I suspect we’d be heard.

Whether they would listen is another question :), but hey, at least you’re speaking up.

Robin (profile) says:

Re: Make a Difference

Sorta double posting sorry, but took me a while to dig this up. My question sent along to the USTR:

Dear Ambassader Kirk,

Could you please explain publicly how

Neil I. Turkewitz, Esq.
Executive Vice President
Recording Industry Association of America

according to USTR’s own documentation:

http://www.ita.doc.gov/itac/committees/ipr.asp

qualifies as a sovereign nation with privileged access to sovereign-to-sovereign negotiations.

Also please explain how I am also not similarly privileged.

Thank you.

Anonymous Coward says:

They advise looking at recent FTAs

The USTR has suggested that we look at recent free trade agreements to get a gist of what sort of things may be discussed.

Some of the stranger things that have ended up in IP portions of recent free trade agreements (i.e. Australia, Singapore, etc.) include :
* requiring that courts assume that the plaintiffs are in fact the rights holders and that all the facts are in order unless evidence is given to the contrary (i.e. in part, turning innocent until proven guilty upside down)
* provisions providing for the destruction of any equipment used in creating the counterfeit merchandise (with no provision made for unwitting third party services).

Anonymous Coward says:

I think we need to organize a march to Congress demanding the following.

A: Health freedoms and freedom from FDA tyranny.

B: No secret treaties or ACTA nonsense.

C: That intellectual property doesn’t last as long (no more than seven years).

D: That the plaintiff has as much to lose for falsely suing for intellectual property infringement as the defendant. None of this $250,000 or 5 years in prison for violating copyright infringement but only $2,500 in compensatory damages for proving that someone, with fraudulent intent, sued you for intellectual property damages.

Also, none of this TI claiming that I can’t modify MY calculator in whichever way I want because it violates their DMCA or some other law.

Mike C. (profile) says:

Submit your own question...

The site is back up and while the question from “James” is deserving of a better answer, I can’t say I’m surprised by the one he got. That being said, I asked what I hope is a more pointed question and recommend that everyone ask questions to let them know people ARE following these negotiations and that there very would could be repercussions from bad decisions.

My question started by indicating that the list of committee members (found here) includes a number of people with a vested interest in increasing IP restrictions. I then asked what was being done to insure that consumer interests and public benefit were being properly balanced with any new restrictions being added.

Again, I doubt I’m going to get an answer that I like, but I feel better that the question has been asked and hope that others start posting questions too. What strikes me most is that it’s sad to see myself have such a low expectation of getting an honest answer in return.

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