US Embassy In Berlin Offering Cold, Hard Cash For People To Create Pro-TAFTA/TTIP Propaganda

from the beats-transparency dept

We’ve been writing about the big US/EU “free trade” agreement negotiations (which aren’t really about free trade at all), variously named TAFTA or TTIP (negotiators prefer TTIP, to avoid comparisons to NAFTA) for quite some time now. If it were really about free trade, there might be some interesting elements to it, but it’s much more about the standard issues like providing corporate sovereignty over national sovereignty, and other things like ratcheting up copyright and patent laws in secret. All this “democracy” is all done very much behind closed doors that won’t be opened until many years after the agreement is already reached.

The key negotiators have long been complaining about “misinformation” being spread about this and other agreements — but it often appears that the misinformation is actually coming directly from the negotiators themselves. Besides, it’s pretty rich to complain about misinformation on a deal that you’re negotiating in secret. Want to end much of that supposed “misinformation”? Here’s a simple suggestion: open up, show some transparency and release the negotiating positions you’re taking, or even draft documents of the agreement to allow the public to comment.

But instead of transparency, it appears that the US State Department has settled on another option: paying for propaganda.

No joke, the US Embassy in Berlin has apparently been tweeting out offers to give out between $5,000 and $20,000 to organizations willing to produce pro-TAFTA/TTIP propaganda. The document doesn’t ask for proposals for unbiased analysis on the impact of any potential agreement, instead it starts out by simply declaring:

T-TIP will be a fair deal for Europeans and Americans that will build on an already existing strong friendship.

Now that’s an interesting claim, given that there is no agreement yet, and what’s been negotiated so far is (and will remain) entirely secret. So, uh, how does anyone know if it will be “a fair deal.” Wouldn’t it be more reasonable and, dare I say, objective, to ask for an analysis of what kinds of things might be useful in an agreement, and what kinds of things might cause harm? Or, better yet, how about a study on the pros and cons of certain proposals, so as to better weigh the benefits and dangers? Instead, the State Department just insists that this secretive, and nowhere near concluded, agreement will definitely be fair… and is offering cold hard cash to anyone who will cook up some argument for why that must be. Anything will do:

The activities funded with a Federal Assistance Award (Grant) ranging from $5000 to $20,000 might include the following innovative ideas:

  • short documentaries on T-TIP
  • Expert Speaker Tour with proposed names(s) for travel (including per diem and honoraria)
  • creation of a Twitterfall wall during a conference
  • digital posters in German with QR codes to inform about T-TIP objectives
  • a T-TIP conference with a broad swath of stakeholders that can be live-streamed
  • online discussion forums on T-TIP
  • website devoted to T-TIP

Hmm. We run a site that has online discussions around the agreement. Perhaps we should apply… Somehow, I don’t think we’ll pass the “screening” process.

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Comments on “US Embassy In Berlin Offering Cold, Hard Cash For People To Create Pro-TAFTA/TTIP Propaganda”

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35 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Wow, so they are finally using the same tactics as the corporations who bought their votes.

One wonders how the American people feel about their tax dollars being used to support secret negotiations designed to circumvent the openness and transparent we are supposed to enjoy as part of the core of our nation.

The country is on its way to ruin, but we just gotta satisfy corporations while citizens suffer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

These people are representatives for the corporations who bought the votes. The companies are multinational so we are seeing them work both sides of the pond.

I can see the reason for keeping negotiation out of the press. My addendum would be that as soon as they are done negotiating they need to release what is needed to clarify the meaning of the specifics of the agreement to the public, plus give a sufficient period for political and public review before any form of implementation…

This is not anti-commune in its core. It is a political powerstruggle by huge companies to get advantageous competition situations in their craft. Unfortunately the best way to get such agreements among the companies is to limit consumer rights, workers rights, environmental protection and other kinds of political/state influence in their fine business.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well, you need talking points first. Some talking points they can come up with …

It’s being kept secret because it’s a surprise. The government and industry want to do something so awesome for the public interest that they don’t want to spoil the surprise early on. Besides they don’t want to get our hopes up prematurely in the case that the negotiations don’t go smoothly because they couldn’t agree on something.

What’s good for industry is good for the public. Helping industries profit causes them to hire people and create more jobs.

These negotiations are being kept secret for national security purposes. Revealing them will help allow terrorists to know how to cause even more terror (I couldn’t think of anything more reasonable here … maybe someone else could help).

These are free trade agreements and so they will help support even more free trade. Free trade is a good thing.

mcinsand (profile) says:

Re: Re: bribery and kickback laws

“I think that only applies to bribery of government officials.”

Not sure how relevant I am being here, but bribery and kickback laws go beyond government relationships. In my previous position, we had dealings in one European country where side-payments were not only legal, but de rigeur. Not only that, but, without side payments, you were effectively shut out of several markets. Our attorneys told us that local laws didn’t matter, since we were a US company. If we participated in those practices, then we could go to jail.

Bt Garner (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: bribery and kickback laws

This is true. A former boss was in China as the country CIO over there and even though bribery is the de facto way of doing business, it is still against the US law. The US cracked down on several US based comapnies that were doing this, and my ex-boss was fired and told to leave China within 48 hours. He did, but the company that fired him re-hired him after a few years, I suspect a late thanks for taking the heat for violating a corporate policy that is the way things are done in China.

David says:

Re: Bad idea.

Why would he want to advertise his site as being visible? This is based on the assumption that the government is offering a carrot you will feel fine publicly refusing.

What you don’t get to see in advance just what shape and size that carrot has. And where there is a carrot, there is likely a stick as well, also with unknown shape and size.

If you value your life, you don’t mess with organized crime syndicates like the U.S. government.

Anonymous Coward says:

The activities funded with a Federal Assistance Award (Grant) ranging from $5000 to $20,000 might include the following innovative ideas

And how do they even count as remotely innovative?

When even the jackasses in charge of “protecting” innovation have to resort to idiocy like this, you know it’s bullshit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think publically advertising what could easily be concieved as straight up bribery and making it public is pretty innovative on its own.

Unfortunately these kinds of deals are pretty common in guerilla advertising and even more: They always include a non-disclosure agreements so you will never be sure who recieved the bribes and who is just a zealot.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Load gun. Point at foot. Pull trigger

And now, every time a person or organization comes out in support of these two ‘trade agreements’, people can outright dismiss them as paid shills by pointing to this offer, whether they really are or not.

Now, unless everyone in support of the two ‘agreements’, wants to provide extensive documentation proving that they haven’t received money for their statements, the default assumption should be that they have in fact been paid to give their support, and aren’t giving their honest opinion, but merely saying what they’ve been paid for.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Load gun. Point at foot. Pull trigger

Yes but much like the NSA’s actions, it’s the difference between ‘We’re almost positive X is happening, but can’t quite prove it’, and ‘X is happening, and here’s the proof’.

With something like this in play the requirement for evidence is also flipped completely around, before if you accused someone of being a shill for supporting the ‘trade agreements’, the evidence would be on you to prove it, now that the USG is handing out cash for people to support it, the burden of proof is now on them to prove they haven’t been bought out.

Anonymous Coward says:

the USA is responsible for just about every ‘Trade Deal that has been and is around. their has to be some serious benefits for the USA this time if they need to try to bribe people to praise it! the best thing for every other nation is to throw this right out the window! it seems to me like the USA is trying to get world domination without using bullets and bombs! it’s long been stated that whichever country controls the internet controls the world!! after it’s happened, it’ll be too late to complain. that has to be done now! the best way is to force the release of all documentation and allow the public and their representatives to have genuine input, so stopping this continuous one-sided bullshit!!

Anonymous Coward says:

The activities funded with a Federal Assistance Award (Grant) ranging from $5000 to $20,000 might include the following innovative ideas:
? short documentaries on T-TIP

How do you make a documentary on something that is secret? Surely the only documentary that is possible to make is one about the secrecy surrounding the negotiations?

M. Alan Thomas II (profile) says:

Obviously the only reasonable things to report on are the (bad) things that have been leaked or suspected, including the secrecy surrounding the process. I fully support:

(1) making a documentary showing how it’s impossible to find out anything and how uninformed even lawmakers involved are,

(2) any opportunity to let Twitter express its outrage on this idiocy to conference-goers, and

(3) having a live-streamed conference with actual stakeholders rather than hand-picked industry lobbyists.

I’ll help as best I can with any of those. And if we don’t win a government grant, well, there’s always nonprofits and crowdfunding.

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