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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    arcan, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 1:55pm

    who here votes we should exile this guy to whatever reality he is taking orders from. because it is sure not this one...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 1:57pm

    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
    eof

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Loki, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 2:03pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Watchit (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 2:24pm

    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...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 2:25pm

    It's hard to comment.

    I could only find the section on forced-labor camps and debtors prisons. It's interesting that the camps and prisons being built as we speak (to, you know, keep us safe from terrists, of whom we must always be very afraid).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 3:37pm

      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........by 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.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 2:27pm

    Sweet, the weekly TPP transparency snivel came early this week. We get that you don't like that diplomacy is handled differently than legislation. And that you attack the process as a surrogate for an attack on the IP chapter. Thanks for the update, see you next week. Same time, same station.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 2:31pm

      Re:

      We have Congresspeople attacking that process too. And if it's so secret, then why does private industry get to peek and nobody else?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 3:04pm

        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.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      abc gum, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 2:38pm

      Re:

      "We get that you don't like that diplomacy is handled differently than legislation"

      Last time I checked, the USTR was still a part of the government and therefore subject to restrictions laid forth by the Bill of Rights. What part of this do you not understand?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 3:02pm

        Re: Re:

        What part of this do you not understand?

        Forgive his ignorance. He was elected and Not knowing shit from Shinola is listed under "Requirements" in the official American Slimy Society of Highly Outrageous Lying Elected Morons' ("A.S.S.H.O.L.E. Morons", for short) indoctrination pamphlet.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        btr1701, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 3:35pm

        Re: Re:

        > Last time I checked, the USTR was still a
        > part of the government and therefore subject
        > to restrictions laid forth by the Bill of Rights.

        I'm no fan of the TPP or Ron Kirk, but your comment doesn't make any sense. Which one of the Bill of Rights is Kirk violating?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          arcan, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 6:39pm

          Re: Re: 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.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 7:19pm

            Re: Re: Re: 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.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              Watchit (profile), Sep 25th, 2012 @ 11:00am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: 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?

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 7:16pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Please don't interfere while he's derping out.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          abc gum, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 7:27pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Which one of the Bill of Rights is Kirk violating?"

          Difficult to say, because - you know - its a big secret.
          Shhhh, let's not disturb the negotiations now.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Watchit (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 2:39pm

      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?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 7:20pm

        Re: Re:

        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?

        There is a ratification process, you know.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Watchit (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 10:05pm

          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.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2012 @ 7:04am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            So you acknowledge that there's oversight in the form of a ratification process, but you think it's insufficient.... citing the failure of ACTA to be ratified in Europe, which is a prime example of the oversight process working. Got it.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              Watchit (profile), Sep 25th, 2012 @ 10:52am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          abc gum, Sep 25th, 2012 @ 6:12am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "There is a ratification process, you know."

          I think we all know who the rats are.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      btr1701, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 3:34pm

      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".

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 4:48pm

      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.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      techflaws (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 10:27pm

      Re:

      Sweet, the usual shill claiming it's just the way these things are done, conveniently ignoring the fact, that industry reps get to see the drafts. You're so transparent, dude.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2012 @ 7:09am

        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.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          abc gum, Sep 25th, 2012 @ 7:39am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Uh-huh ... I'm sure you believe those assumptions are correct, but since details remain hidden why should anyone believe you? And based upon past experience, one would be remiss if they were not pessimistic about this.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2012 @ 8:12am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            For starters, why don't you actually read the leaked draft and tell us how you think it would force changes to US law.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              abc gum, Sep 25th, 2012 @ 11:40am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:27am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                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.

                So then what you are saying is that the criticism itself is baseless because everything is secret? You are profoundly retarded.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Dirkmaster (profile), Sep 25th, 2012 @ 12:15pm

          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?

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          techflaws (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 2:46am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Why are you so surprised that industry representatives with international trade experience are consulted?

          Surprised? I'm not even surprised the public is not only ignored but despised by the USTR. Which in turn will happen to the trade agreements people'll feel free to ignore. Good job.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Cory of PC (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 2:31pm

    ... 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?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 2:41pm

    Why does the USTR make me think of the fate of the marketing department of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Shmerl, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 2:48pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Keii (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 2:50pm

    About as transparent as a one-way mirror.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 3:21pm

    They didn't get that far in the dictionary yet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 3:41pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    gorehound (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 4:42pm

    The USTR are such a group of scumbag sold out and corrupted people.
    The TPP must be Protested.Support of the TPP is Wrong and Corrupt.
    NOTE: The Public and even Senators & House Reps are not even allowed to look at what has been written.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    arcan, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 6:41pm

    this is why being a career politician should be illegal. wanting to be one pretty much means you are just about the worst person to be one...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    hmm (profile), Sep 25th, 2012 @ 1:09am

    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'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    relghuar, Sep 25th, 2012 @ 2:08am

    Transparency?

    trans·par·ent   [trans-pair-uhnt, -par-]
    adjective
    1.
    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...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    jsf (profile), Sep 25th, 2012 @ 6:54am

    Transparent Process

    But they are being transparent about the process. They never said they were being transparent about the results of that process. ;-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Jimmy Arthur, Sep 27th, 2012 @ 7:44am

    Missing the point, as well as the briefings...

    TPP negotiations have been a lot more transparent than the author claims. In fact, there have been over 300 briefings. This author is stewing because he clearly didn't look hard enough to find them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This