This Is Not Transparency: TPP Delegates Refuses To Reveal Text, Refuse To Discuss Leaked Text
from the massive-fail dept
The folks over at the EFF have a decent summary of the travesty that was the “stakeholder” events at the latest TPP negotiating round, in which various groups (on all sides) were supposedly given an “opportunity” to express their thoughts on the TPP. We’ve already discussed some other aspects of it, but the one thing that the EFF writeup makes clear, is that the whole thing is a complete joke. The text, of course, remains “secret,” and negotiators flat out refuse to discuss any points raised about the various leaked texts:
The stakeholder engagement events in the morning were followed by a stakeholder briefing in the afternoon. The briefing allowed registered individuals from civil society and the public to ask questions of and make comments to eight out of the nine negotiators who represent a TPP country. The press was barred from the room. Roughly 25 people rose from the audience to ask questions to the trade delegates during the 90-minute briefing period. As predicted, they were not transparent about the talks, revealed little new information, and delegates also refused to make any comments based on leaked version of texts—the only text EFF and other public interest organizations have had access to. It is difficult for public stakeholders to ask accurate questions or receive any substantive answers when the content of the agreement continues to be shrouded in secrecy.
Rossini asked the USTR about its claims that the TPP’s intellectual property chapter will provide for fair use in its IP chapter, and how those public statements starkly contrast with the recent leaked TPP chapter that shows that the US delegation is in fact pushing for provisions that will restrict non-US countries from enacting fair use. Further, they neglected to comment on the fact that the leaked test has the potential to limit US fair use to the three-step test restrictions. In response, the lead negotiator for the USTR dodged the question and stated that they would not comment on issues raised by text EFF has “purportedly” received. The representative did acknowledge that fair use would be discussed during the week’s meetings.
This is not “transparency,” no matter how many times the USTR claims that they have “unprecedented” levels of transparency around the TPP negotiations. If negotiators won’t share what they’re even negotiating, and won’t respond to any questions related to the actual text that’s leaked, the only thing you can discuss are vague generalities not found in the leaked documents. That’s insane. And because of that, the negotiators are focused on ridiculous ideas. For example, the EFF writeup notes that negotiators were asked how they could justify negotiating expansive copyright laws in secret after seeing what happened with SOPA and ACTA… and the response revealed just how out of touch the negotiators are. They don’t even realize that the DMCA is controversial:
The last question of the briefing came from EFF’s International Intellectual Property Coordinator, Maira Sutton, who raised from the crowd and asked the lead negotiator how they justify pushing for ever more restrictive copyright laws in the agreement even though it has become clear, with the defeat of ACTA in Europe, that users are sick and tired of international agreements regulating their Internet through overprotective intellectual property provisions… In response, the lead negotiator for the US stated that the standard for copyright regulation in international agreements has been the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). They claimed that the DMCA was legislated fairly and is an effective model for copyright enforcement in the US. The representatives’ answer contradicted the fact that EFF and others have been arguing for years that the DMCA is fraught with problems. Sutton responded that based upon what we saw in the recent leaked text on fair use, developing countries would not be able to implement such copyright laws as soundly given that the three-step test language restricts signatory nations from determining and establishing fair use as they see fit.
So, the end result is that we have a completely secret back-room process, where the USTR pretends to listen to the public, but won’t talk to them about what’s in the actual negotiations, and refuses to comment on the little we actually know is in the document thanks to leaks. And because of that, we have completely clueless negotiators pushing something they think is sensible, totally ignorant of the reality.
This could be solved pretty easily: make the US positions and negotiating documents public and allow public comment on them. The USTR still hasn’t given a reason why this can’t be done. Though, the answer seems kind of obvious: actually being transparent would mean having to listen to the public and various experts point out where they’re completely clueless. If USTR negotiators are so insecure in their positions, they shouldn’t be in that job.