USTR Insists Secret, MPAA-Backed TPP Is 'Most Transparent Trade Negotiation In History'… From Hollywood Studio

from the does-anyone-believe-this-crap? dept

Honestly, it’s somewhat difficult to believe that someone who works in the USTR didn’t recognize that it was a bad idea to have their new boss, Michael Froman, who was once called one of the most “egregious examples” of the “revolving door” between companies and government, head out to visit two of the largest Hollywood studios just days after the IP chapter of the secretive TPP agreement was leaked, showing that it was basically Hollywood’s wishlist of copyright crap. It’s even more difficult to believe, given all that and given that Froman decided to go hang out with some friendly folks in Hollywood anyway, that someone at the USTR didn’t think maybe, just maybe, Froman should avoid giving an interview in which he’d be asked about the leaked chapter.

But, it happened. Of course, the interview was with Variety, so maybe they figured that only Hollywood people would read it, and that the rest of the world would never catch on to the fact that Froman is either totally clueless or a blatant liar about the TPP. However, he did give an interview, while “touring Paramount’s backlot” in which he said a bunch of nutty things. Here’s my favorite:

He also called the talks over the trade pact “the most transparent trade negotiation in history,” noting that they have held more than 1,000 briefings on Capitol Hill, have enlisted 600 advisers for input from various groups and have invited stakeholders to address negotiators from all 12 countries, among other efforts.

Let’s just say, this is pure bullshit. Extreme bullshit. Honestly, even Variety (which, as you might imagine, tends to toe the Hollywood line) seems to suggest that this claim isn’t actually true. And, of course, considering that the USTR is infamously secretive, being “the most transparent in history” doesn’t mean you were actually transparent at all. And, in this case, the fact that he’s claiming it’s “the most transparent in history” days after a chapter that no one in the public has seen during nearly four years of negotiations had to be leaked should highlight the level of bullshit that Froman is spewing.

He seems to have pulled this “most transparent” bullshit from his predecessor, Ron Kirk, who used to claim the same thing. Both are fundamentally trying to mislead. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, listening to lots of people, while not revealing what you’re doing, is not transparency. It’s listening. Listening may be better than not listening, but it’s completely different than “transparency.” Let me make this even clearer:

  • Listening: People —- information —–> USTR
  • Transparency: USTR — information —-> The Public

What Froman described above is about listening. They get “advice” from various stakeholders. That’s not transparency. That’s listening. So long as no one gets to see what crap they’re negotiating “on our behalf,” there’s no transparency. At all. The only time this negotiation had any transparency was when Wikileaks finally released the IP chapter which the USTR should have and could have done years ago.

The other bit of bullshit in the interview was his misleading response to the claim by some that TPP is like SOPA. Now, I should be clear that we’ve avoided making that comparison, because there is a different set of issues here. And Froman used those differences to try to discredit all criticism of TPP:

“For example, as I understand it, I wasn’t around for it, (the Stop Online Piracy Act) was about blocking rogue Internet sites from accessing the Internet from the United States. There is nothing in the Trans Pacific Partnership, zero, that has anything to do with that,” he said.

But “blocking rogue websites” isn’t what’s making people make the comparison between TPP and SOPA. It’s two things: (1) a backroom deal negotiated in secret with no input from the public which (2) includes basically a wishlist from Hollywood. The fact that the two wishlists are not identical is not really the point, but it’s the point Froman chose to focus on, because he’s trying to mislead the public.

Froman continues to demonstrate that he has no business in the role he’s in:

“Our goal through these trade negotiations is to make sure we are raising the standard of protection around the world, for artists and the people who support them,” he said.

Except that’s not supposed to be the goal at all, and the fact that he thinks it is makes him clearly unqualified for his job. Remember that the TPP is supposed to be about free trade, yet here he is admitting that his actual agenda is increasing protectionism. Second, as anyone who knows anything about intellectual property knows, “raising the standard of protection” has been shown repeatedly to be rather harmful to creators and the public. And, again, the entire purpose of copyright law is supposed to be about promoting progress for the public. It would appear that Froman doesn’t know this. And yet he’s in charge of negotiating this thing? Really?

This is the reason why transparency matters. Because when you take someone who doesn’t understand intellectual property at all, such as Froman, and tell him to negotiate a trade agreement in which the only people he shares the negotiating text with are maximalists, all he hears is how they have to “raise” standards, even as most of the world has realized that the “standards” are already way too high and tremendously damaging to the economy and innovation.

Either way, this whole situation is incredible. You have the USTR, just days after the secret treaty that was written with the help of Hollywood’s lobbyists is leaked out, declaring that it’s the most transparent in history despite the fact that, if he had his way, none of the public would have seen it, and saying so while touring Hollywood studios. The USTR is either extremely confident that no one cares about trade agreements, or a large segment of the staff there is profoundly clueless. Or maybe it’s both.

SOPA was taken down because it was a backroom deal and a Hollywood wishlist, without respect for the public. ACTA went down for the same reason. If Froman doesn’t want the same thing to happen to TPP, he might want to learn a thing or two about intellectual property and what transparency means. Because as of right now, he appears to be setting himself up to be roadkill for another internet uprising.

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Companies: disney, mpaa, paramount

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Comments on “USTR Insists Secret, MPAA-Backed TPP Is 'Most Transparent Trade Negotiation In History'… From Hollywood Studio”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Look at what it took to get a significant part of Congress to take the NSA issue seriously even after the Snowden leaks first came out. Most members of Congress initially defended the NSA until there was more and more information revealed publicly and a large enough outcry. If they think not enough people are paying attention to a particular issue because there isn’t a big enough outcry against it, they will go along with just about anything, especially when those behind it are handing out big campaign contributions in order to support it. SOPA was expected to sail through and would have if it weren’t for the backlash. Same with ACTA although most of that was in Europe instead of the US where it had already been signed. These people push this stuff try to sneak it though on many fronts hoping that they can get some of them past. The TPP is just another attempt. It’s not a one and done game they are playing and opposition to it can’t be handled that way either.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

They did. Transsparency is a newer invention. 30 years ago, everything was happening in a vacuum where trade deals were implemented without any press about it, except for a political bragging here and there. The tribunals, has been a tradition for more than half a century even though it has only been used to force the hands on developing countries by EU and USA in particular (making a democratically acceptable and non-repressive tribunal is obviously going to be a nightmare since its traditional role has been in keeping the second and third world, well, second and third economically!).

In the last 15 years things have changed dramatically from including more oversight and transparency about implementation and now even approval is becoming a political issue!

TPP may very well be the most transparent bilateral or multilateral treaty outside of established organisations in the field, like WTO, WIPO etc.
We will only know after the treaty is done!

Open processes during the negotiations can easily make some politicians climb too far into the media-tree to be able to make a fitting compromise. Most politicians in western countries know how to speak black and say a lot of words without saying anything at all, which is the best way to avoid being called out on broken promises and therefore creating an ideal negotiation position.

Unfortunately, not all are that versed in media-training. WTO has been in an unsolvable pin for 12 years and it is still going very strong. India is not gonna budge to USAs ultimate demands, so hoping for anything there is utopian. Even WIPO has lost a lot of its allure after the 2004 coop, from particularly developing nations, where non-rightholders got a say on some of the future WIPO issues (blasphemers!).

Today “trade negotiations” are the only true platform left for industries to impose policies on governments without the blackmail in lobbyism or pesky transparency watering the result down in other fora. Corruption is having a harder time with the modern level of transparency and that is making the western countries bend out of shape to keep transparency from expanding to “important” areas where corruption is needed!

out_of_the_blue says:

But why doesn't Mike ever worry about the globalist aspects?

“The draft text for the TPP Intellectual Property Rights Chapter spells out provisions for implementing a transnational ?enforcement regime? designed to supplant national laws and sovereignty with a globalist construct. The TPP is by far the largest and most oppressive economic treaty devised thus far. It will have an impact on a staggering 40 percent of worldwide GDP. The TPP is the forerunner to the equally secret US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Both treaties combined will cover 60 percent of world GDP and exclude China.”

When all you have is an economics degree, everything looks like a corporation.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: But why doesn't Mike ever worry about the globalist aspects?

If you educate yourself about what’s really going on, you will see the conspiracies.

I do and yes I see possible conspiracies out there. I’m just not going to jump at every shadow there is.

Don’t expect someone to give you an education, educate yourself.

Yes. I do. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t get annoyed with someone trying to shove their view down my throat as if it’s the ONLY answer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Most transparent

He’s right it IS one of the most transparently negotiated treaties in history, but he cannot take credit for that. It’s only transparent because of dedicated people on the inside that have chosen to leak the information which has allowed it to be transparent. In the past no one would know about it until it was already a done deal.

Anonymous Coward says:

1984 effect

An unimportant but interesting question for all such treaties and laws: what will the effect on 1984 be?

While I know in some countries it is still copyright, in others such as Oz, it is public domain.

So, we have a treaty negotiated in secret by largely unaccountable powers that will make 1984 less available to the public.

Anonymous Coward says:

Congress apparently doesn’t think it has enough slush funds in the campaign war chest and but the repubs and the dems have sent letters to the president about not renewing the fast track authority George Bush got in 2002. It expired in 2007.

Obama claims he is afraid that congress will load the trade treaty with additions that will invalidate the agreement with other countries.

If there is one thing I have learned from the political discourse, it is not to believe anything you are hearing. When you see actions instead of words you know the real purpose behind the methods. Of course that is much too late to do anything about but creditability isn’t something USTR has to worry about is it?

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