Credit Where Credit Is Due: USTR Accommodates Stakeholder Presentations

June 5, 2012 , ,

The US Trade Representative (USTR) just recently announced that it
will accommodate both formal presentations and less structured events
for stakeholders in the next round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
negotiations. This is a promising step forward for the USTR’s public
engagement efforts, even though it cannot solve the serious problems
caused by the lack of transparency in the TPP negotiations.

Combining the Best of Both Worlds

The next round of TPP negotiaitons are less than a month from now, and
the USTR has begun releasing information for stakeholders to engage with negotiators. The USTR plans to host another stakeholder
event, a la TPP Dallas,
in which stakeholders can register for a table and speak directly with
the negotiators who attend the event.

As we explained after attending a similar event in Dallas last month, there are
advantages and disadvantages to stakeholder tables events and more
formal stakeholder presentation forums. Which format works better for
a particular stakeholder will depend on their resources, their
familiarity with the negotiators, and the substance of their concerns
about the TPP.

In Public Knowledge’s feedback about the event, we suggested that the
hosting country should hold both a formal presentation forum and a
less structured tabling event, to better accommodated the various
needs of different stakeholders. And now it seems the USTR is planning
to do just that during the San Diego negotiations.

The USTR’s stakeholder engagement website includes instructions both for registering for a stakeholder tables
event and for making arrangements to make more formal presentations to
negotiators. It’s encouraging to see the USTR respond to stakeholder
feedback so quickly and become more open to accommodating the needs of
a variety of stakeholders.

The Elephant in the Room: Transparency

Of course, it must be said that all of the stakeholder engagement
events in the world cannot make up for the shocking lack of
transparency surrounding the substance of the negotiations and the
TPP’s text. Stakeholder events also cannot truly be effective if the
negotiators are obviously not interested in hearing from public
interest groups.

Transparency is a two-way street,
and increasing the amount of information flowing from stakeholders to
the government does not lessen the government’s obligation to provide
information about its activities and proposals to the public.

That said, the USTR’s efforts to help stakeholders engage with
negotiators and make their case before the negotiating countries is
promising. Public Knowledge will continue to use every available
opportunity to advocate for balanced copyright provisions in the TPP
that will benefits consumers and innovative new companies.

For more information and TPP updates, visit our website