IP-Watch Works To Open TPP Text; USTR Misses Response Deadline

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Intellectual Property Watch, an independent accredited journalist organisation, has been working with Yale Law School to make more information public about US government involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement under negotiation with 11 other countries.

The TPP talks begun in 2008 have been conducted under an unprecedented lack of transparency from the standpoint of media and the public, making it difficult to report meaningful stories about the issue, or for the public to provide meaningful input.

IP-Watch, www.ip-watch.org, has worked for more than a year with the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic (MFIA) to pursue a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request at the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) in order to obtain more information on the TPP.

The request includes the US positions in the talks, and the lobbying influences that have shaped those positions. IP-Watch is particularly targeting aspects of the draft treaty related to intellectual property rights, but this is an issue that cuts across many other areas.

Margot Kaminski, executive director of Yale Law School’s Information Society Project and co-founder of the MFIA clinic, recently published a series of articles about the possible profound effect of the TPP on people in participating countries.

Wikileaks released a version of the TPP IP chapter from August that shed significant light on the process (IPW, Bilateral/Regional Negotiations, 13 November 2013). The IP-Watch request goes beyond that.

“The public has a right to know what legal rules the government is advocating for in international negotiations, and to what extent its positions have been influenced by interested parties granted special access to the government’s senior negotiators,” Jonathan Manes ’08, Abrams Clinical Fellow and Clinical Lecturer with the MFIA Clinic, said in an MFIA press release. “The public should not have to rely on unauthorized leaks to learn what the government is doing in its name.”

Joshua Weinger, a member of the MFIA clinic, noted that, “Even while the public and independent experts have kept almost entirely in the dark, the USTR has shared its negotiating positions with foreign governments and also with representatives from industries that have a financial stake in the negotiations.”

USTR has refused to disclose most of the information being requested, the release pointed out, but “IP-Watch succeeded, after more than a year of delay, in obtaining disclosure of a small number of emails that, while containing little of substance, do demonstrate a close relationship between the USTR negotiators and industry groups.”  These emails were the subject of recent reports by Knowledge Ecology International and the Washington Post, detailing how much contact they reveal between USTR and industry.

IP-Watch filed an appeal in August contesting the USTR’s “refusal to disclose the vast majority of requested documents, including any documents related to the substance of the communications between the USTR and industry representatives, and any documents reflecting the positions that the United States has taken in formal negotiations,” according to the release.

“More than three months later, well past the deadline imposed by law, USTR has failed to issue a response,” it said.

Margot Kaminski, executive director of Yale Law School’s Information Society Project and co-founder of the MFIA clinic, recently published a series of articles  about the possible profound effect of the TPP on people in participating countries.

IP-Watch Director and Editor-in-Chief William New is a visiting fellow at the Yale Information Society Project.

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

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Comments

  1. Tuco_the_Ugly says

    That’s because they know that the other 24 undisclosed chapters of the document are equally as sinister and perverse as the one published by Wikileaks. They’ll keep denying it until they’ve forced it through/ bypassed Congress and have implemented it on a large scale: enslaving the American people to the Mega-Corporations.

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