Back in 2013, we wrote about a FOIA lawsuit that was filed by William New at IP Watch. After trying to find out more information on the TPP by filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and being told that they were classified as "national security information" (no, seriously), New teamed up with Yale's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic to sue
. As part of that lawsuit, the USTR has now released a bunch of internal emails concerning TPP negotiations, and IP Watch has a full writeup showing how industry lobbyists influenced the TPP agreement
, to the point that one is even openly celebrating that the USTR version copied his own text word for word.
What is striking in the emails is not that government negotiators seek expertise and advice from leading industry figures. But the emails reveal a close-knit relationship between negotiators and the industry advisors that is likely unmatched by any other stakeholders.
The article highlights numerous examples of what appear to be very chummy relationships between the USTR and the "cleared advisors" from places like the RIAA, the MPAA and the ESA. They regularly share text and have very informal discussions, scheduling phone calls and get togethers to further discuss. This really isn't that
surprising, given that the USTR is somewhat infamous for its revolving door with lobbyists
who work on these issues. In fact, one of the main USTR officials in the emails that IP Watch got is Stan McCoy, who was the long term lead negotiator on "intellectual property" issues. But he's no longer at the USTR -- he now works for the MPAA
You can read through the emails, embedded below, which show a very, very chummy relationship, which is quite different from how the USTR seems to act with people who are actually more concerned about what's in the TPP (and I can use personal experience on that...). Of course, you'll notice that the USTR still went heavy on the black ink budget, so most of the useful stuff is redacted. Often entire emails other than the salutation and signature line are redacted.
Perhaps the most incredible, is the email from Jim DeLisi, from Fanwood Chemical, to Barbara Weisel, a USTR official, where DeLisi raves that he's just looked over the latest text, and is gleeful to see that the the rules that have been agreed up on are "our rules" (i.e., the lobbyists'), even to the point that he (somewhat confusingly) insists "someone owes USTR a royalty payment." While it appears he's got the whole royalty system backwards (you'd think an "IP advisor" would know better...) the point is pretty clear: the lobbyists wrote the rules, and the USTR just put them into the agreement. Weisel's response? "Well there's a bit of good news..."
In a follow-up email, DeLisi states: "I looked at the rules much more carefully over the weekend. There is no doubt, this is our template." And then, of course, the rest is redacted:
It's no surprise that this is happening. Of course when you have industry and government groups set up to be regular "advisors" on certain text (and there's a big revolving door between the two sides), you'd expect the relationship to be chummy and sociable. And it shouldn't be surprising to then see the USTR take the lobbyists "template" and stick it right into the agreement. That's how all of this works, after all. But considering that the agreement is a secret agreement that the public and experts outside of those lobbyist "advisors" are not allowed to see, you have to wonder how it's even remotely possible for the USTR to have a full and fair picture of what those rules are likely to do or the impact on the public.