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.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “USTR: By Making People Testify About TPP Text They Cannot See… We're Being Transparent”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
art guerrilla (profile) says:

let’s get real:
it is NOT because the denizens of washingtoon are stoopid and simply don’t realize they are working against the interests of us 99% to the benefit of the 1%; it is because THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT of what they are doing…

which is WHY they *mostly* try and keep all this stuff behind closed doors… out of sight, out of mind…

they are simply providing some minimal window-dressing, barely believable deniability of their evil ways, and smoke and mirrors to confuse *most* of us who do not follow these issues…

make no mistake: their perfidy and misdirection are 100% purposeful; they only try to make it seem like it is only by accident that the interests of us 99% NEVER get represented; and the profiteering of the 1% rules the day…

it ain’t stupidity, its cupidity…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Loki says:

which appears to be something that Ron Kirk and the USTR do not understand.

I think they understand perfectly. I think they understand that the majority of the population has become indoctrinated to believe whatever drivel the choose to spoon feed people, that most of them never bother to question what they are being told.

I come across, pretty much on a daily basis, people who can quote me facts, figures, or regurgitate large quantities of information, and yet often have absolutely no idea what a large amount of it really means.

Watchit (profile) says:

Sure they’re giving us a chance to “express our views” but only as long as we don’t comment on what the trade agreement is actually like via the leaked bill and only on the parts they tell us about, which is next to none. And then after hearing our truncated pleas, they can always choose to ignore it completely and know one will be the wiser, because no one knows whats actually going on at the negotiations…

so, yeah, totally transparent and open…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Go ahead…bury your head in the sand and hope it all goes away. Bringing it to the forefront means that maybe, just maybe enough outrage will be created to do something about it…… the way…is that you Chris Dodd…..

Wow, Chris Dodd just signed in and left his mark. Which by the way is one big SSMMOOOOOOOOOOCH on the ass of Washington.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I heard that TPP will require people to have 4 forms of ID to go into Canada or Mexico from the US.

Alternativley you can be strip searched, photographed and fingerprinted. Although you will be required to stay in a temporary hold for two days.

Also, you will not be able to bring anything with you aside from what you are wearing and cars will not be allowed to have more than a half a tank of gas.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

while i agree he is not violating the bill of rights, he is violating the constitution. The senate is supposed to have oversight over ALL treaty negotiation s for a reason.

Correct, it’s called r-a-t-i-f-i-c-a-t-i-o-n. It is different than n-e-g-o-t-i-a-t-i-o-n. That’s the USTR’s job.

Watchit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Yes, ratification, the thing congress should be over seeing? That works out spool well, especially when the president decides to ratify something himself without congressional approval with a bogus presidential order! So much oversight there. Who needs open negotiations and accountability when we have such a thurogh ratification process?

Watchit (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So, your saying that diplomatic trade deals should be allowed to be created in secret because that’s how it’s always been done? Does that really justify it? No, just because it’s been done that way in the past doesn’t mean it’s right.

Do you have a problem with people bringing attention to social wrongs?

Are you really ok with trade negotiators deciding things for your country and your family without any input or ability to fight against injustice at all?

Do you enjoy being a sheep?

Watchit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That’s still cutting it too close for me. Remember in Europe ACTA was almost snuck through the ratification process, and a big part of why it was so largely protested against is because a leaked version was released before hand. They tried to hold as much info in as possible until the very last second in order to prevent any momentum from building against it. By all means it was a very close call.

And don’t forget President Obama signed in ACTA without Congressional approval anyway, so there’s always tricky situations such as that.

Watchit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 you like to argue for the sake of arguing don't you!

No, I’m not happy with the ratification process. I used the close call of ACTA as an example of why more oversight is needed as the reason ACTA failed to be ratified was because a leaked version was released before the ratification process and widespread protests prompted ACTA negotiators to change the language of ACTA, not enough to save ACTA, but a case where bad trade agreements would have been rushed through if not for the drafts that were leaked early on and which negotiators would have preferred the public never see.

btr1701 says:

Re: Re:

> We get that you don’t like that diplomacy
> is handled differently than legislation.

Then why don’t they just be honest and say something like *that*?!?

RON KIRK: No, we’re not being transparent because that’s not how diplomacy works.

Instead we get this bizarre Orwellian double-speak about how “the more we keep stuff secret, the more that proves how transparent we’re being”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Gotta give in. This is not about transparency: It is all about treating people differently without a clear legal justification. The openness towards some industry interests and not others and the lying is the problem here and keeping that cauldren boiling is the only way to get people to take note of it.

In my opinion, a hermetically closed negotiations with no possibility for anyone outside governments to influence the result is a far better situation than the cronyism! It has nothing to do with the diplomats situations and everything to do with an extremely unfortunate handling of laws from the political side.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It is a trade agreement. Why are you so surprised that industry representatives with international trade experience are consulted? Nothing in the leaked draft suggests any change in US law. This is all about piracy apologists wanting to weaken international standards of IP protection under TPP to set the stage for eroding IP protection under US law. That much is VERY transparent.

abc gum says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

For starterz … a leaked draft has little to no credibility and in addition, even if it were authentic there is no doubt that the final secret TPP will be much different than any precursor.

As far as forcing changes to law in any country, I think we have seen how the law is of no concern to these people.

Not sure why you are so opposed to criticism of something you know little about (it’s secret ya know) and certainly have no say in whatsoever. I find it rather amusing actually.

Dirkmaster (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

We couldn’t be that lucky, AC.

No, what this is about is cronyism using secret negotiations to engender an agreement that WILL, when it’s finally revealed the night before the ratification vote, require a change to US law. And those changes will be to prop up legacy business’ failing business models.

Wanna bet which one of us is right, once we finally get to see the damn thing?

Cory of PC (profile) says:

… It seems like every day, I am thinking about add-ons to this proposition that I have in my head at the moment, in hopes if that, one day, we can get rid of this sort of corruption and help give back to who really deserve nice stuff: the public. Thing is, who in this current government environment is going to listen from someone of the public that has a good idea for a law that could help the public, while making changes to our corrupted systems, and potentially save our country from stooping to a whole new level of stupid?

Shmerl says:

They are very consistent about their understanding of transparency. They want the public to be transparent – i.e. spied on the Internet and wherever. But they themselves don’t want to be transparent at all.

Kirk is very exact in what he says, you just need to put accents right:

USTR is committed to transparency in trade negotiations

I.e USTR is committed to various industries’ interests about public transparency (i.e. surveillance and the like) in their negotiations by dodging any attempts of the public to fight those industries’ interests which go against public freedoms.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

When? Never. It will never happen. Any reporter that isn’t a defeatist coward won’t be allowed to interview Ron Kirk or any elected official, not that you could find a reporter who wasn’t already a defeatist coward.

Politicians know “journalists” are too cowardly to ask any question of substance, or to call them on their evasive, non-answers to the questions which are spineless to begin with, because (oh the horror) the politician won’t give them an interview again in the future and instead will give interviews to defeatist coward “journalists” instead. We couldn’t possibly expect the press to work together on growing a spine and the majority asking hard questions and expecting specific answers, that would simply be asking them to earn their keep, which is far far too much to ask, evidently. But keep buying newspapers and watching the 24 hour news networks, they’re entitled to income.

hmm (profile) says:

how about?

Since NO-ONE in the public ‘officially’ knows whats in TPP how about we spread rumours that it contains terribly racist/evil conditions?

That its about rounding up ethnic minorities into camps/charging people 20% extra on their taxes to fund the RIAA etc.

Those behind TPP would have no choice then but to release the full text or face a public that believes they have ‘something evil to hide’

relghuar says:


trans?par?ent   [trans-pair-uhnt, -par-]
having the property of transmitting rays of light through its substance so that bodies situated beyond or behind can be distinctly seen.

I’d say being perfectly transparent means you don’t see a thing, right? Well, you certainly don’t see a thing from USTR, so…

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...