US Congress Members Demand Access To TPP; ACTA Criticised In AustraliaPublished on 27 June 2012 @ 9:17 pm
By William New, Intellectual Property Watch
More than 130 members of the United States Congress have sent a letter to the US Trade Representative demanding greater access to the still-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, while a new bill is being introduced to reform US trade policy. And another Congress member who earlier publicly leaked the intellectual property rights chapter of the agreement has sent a request to be included as a member of the US delegation to the negotiations.
The collective letter from the elected officials is available on infojustice.org, here.
The 130+ congressional members wrote to USTR Ron Kirk, apparently on 27 June, “to urge you and your staff to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the wide-ranging issues involved, and to ensure there is ample opportunity for Congress to have input on critical policies that will have broad ramifications for years to come.”
Most if not all of the letter signatories are Democrats (there are 435 total representatives in Congress). They demanded to see a copy of the high-level confidentiality agreement signed by negotiating parties, and to have more access to negotiations, like the roughly 600 special advisers (who are almost entirely industry representatives).
“Given the laudable priority given to improved government transparency since the first day of the Obama Administration,” they wrote, “we are troubled that there may be needless secrecy and over-classification of documents associated with the release of drafts of the pact’s various chapters, or even providing a summary of each of the Administration’s policies that they have proposed to other countries.”
At the same time, Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, announced he will introduce new legislation “to reform the U.S. trade policymaking process and set binding standards for future agreements,” according to Public Citizen. “The bill, The 21st Century Trade Agreement and Market Access Act, translates Obama’s 2008 trade reform campaign commitments into practical public policy,” the public interest group said.
Separately, California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa has sent a letter to USTR Kirk requesting observer status at the next round of talks in the TPP, to be held on 2-10 July in San Diego, California.
The Issa press release and letter are here.
Issa previously posted, to keepthewebopen.org, a leaked copy of the February 2011 TPP chapter on intellectual property rights.
In another development, Canadian group Open Media launched an online petition opposing the TPP agreement, called Stop the Trap. It states: “I oppose any provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that would expand the power of conglomerates, including by criminalizing or otherwise restricting the use of the Internet. I oppose an online environment that lets big media conglomerates invade my privacy, remove online content on demand, saddle me with heavy fines, or terminate my access to the Internet.”
ACTA Hits Trouble in Australia
Meanwhile, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), an agreement negotiated by many of the same team and under similar confidential terms, continues to run into trouble politically – in large part due to elected officials upset at the secretive nature in which it was negotiated, and the resulting lack of a public interest perspective in the text.
The Australian Parliament Joint Standing Committee on Treaties this week issued a report on ACTA finding fault with the agreement. ACTA already has run into roadblocks in various parliamentary committees and been held up in Europe.
Sean Flynn, associate director of the American University Washington College of Law Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, said in a statement: “The Committee report critiques in strong terms the many ambiguities in the treaty, the lack of an evidentiary basis for its terms and the closed and undemocratic process in which it was negotiated.”
“The big question, now that the Australian government has been sent back to the drawing board on ACTA,” Flynn said, “is how it affects the reported position of the Australian government in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that ACTA’s terms are an appropriate compromise in response to the even more expansionist U.S. position for an IP chapter in that agreement.”
William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.