On March 7, 2012, the US Trade Representative Ron Kirk testified before the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Wyden (D-OR) asked him about the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), in particular the transparency issues.
(watch the audience) – “Rough Transcript” by A. Stamoulis
In particular it is interesting for me that Ron Kirk explains the practice to enable Treaty insights for cleared advisors while the ordinary Americans were locked out from viewing the documents. He also argued no one would want to negotiate a trade agreement when the documents are put out.
I watched the whole session, not only Wyden’s part you find in the video. What suprises me is the superficiality of discussions in the United States, the bias towards opening foreign markets as a job creation effort around Senators constituency issues like poultry, pork and shirts. The appraisals and the spirit of formally agreeing with each other and the offers to “work together” on issues.
It is interesting to compare that with a meeting in the European Parliament Trade committee (24 Feb 2010) where EU negotiator Luc Devigne explained the document lobby leak issue and defended a lack of public transparency:
It should be reminded that this is an[!] international negotiations and that the parties um around the table have said that they did not want that their negotiating positions which belong to them want[!] to be revealed. We cannot betray, if you want, these kinds of rules. .. But one thing that I want to make clear because, I think, it was Mrs Weird [?] saying that lobbyists have documents. Which – I don’t know where they would come from. But certainly not from the Commission. We do not share any document with any lobbyist. That is very clear.
In the hearing Ron Kirk openly confessed that they have leaked the joint documents to cleared non-governmental advisors. These were documents kept from the American public and the European public despite Treaty obligations of the European Commission under Article 15(1) TFEU to conduct their work “as openly as possible”. It is still unclear to me under which legal base from the Treaties the EU Commission entered confidential deliberations on the ACTA agreement. Certainly it is not acceptable that documents got leaked and the first text were later published by the notorious Wikileaks site, not public bodies. On both sides of the Atlantic the public should be able to see what legal provisions are being negotiated and I congratulate Mr. Wyden for his effort to acknowledge a change of the game. In his own words:
There is no question, that is the way it used to work. And I think. What the public is saying, we got to do better…