As negotiators from throughout the Pacific Rim gathered in Salt Lake City for a five-day summit aimed at moving the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement to conclusion, Utahns were there shining a spotlight on the closed-door round and demanding an end to government secrecy.
The Salt Lake Round came amidst increased scrutiny, as it was the first after WikiLeaks published an updated version of the TPP’s intellectual property chapter — revealing that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) continues pushing for draconian measures that, among other things, would reduce access to life-saving generic medication.
While the TPP negotiations have long been marred by secrecy, this was also the first major round of TPP talks in years without any formal stakeholder process allowing civil society and the public at large to present their views to negotiators.
“Every time I think it’s impossible for the TPP negotiations to become any less transparent, USTR proves me wrong,” said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign. “The only thing about the TPP that’s not a secret is who is stands to benefit: big corporations.”
USTR had billed the November-19-to-24, 2013 talks as being only for “Chief Negotiators and Key Experts,” but issue-specific negotiations on more than a dozen separate chapters were also believed to have taken place, reportedly including e-commerce, environment, financial services, intellectual property, investment, labor, legal issues, market access for goods, rules of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, state-owned enterprises, technical barriers to trade and temporary entry of persons.
Hundreds of corporations and a handful of others have been advising USTR on these issues, but after approximately four years of steady negotiating, U.S. negotiators still refuse to tell the American public what they have been proposing in our names.
In response, Citizens Trade Campaign and others organized a press event and rally on the opening day of the round to draw public attention to the TPP and to demand that negotiators release all TPP texts. The event generated front page coverage in Utah’s largest newspaper and other media outlets in Salt Lake and around the world. The Backbone Campaign and local groups organized additional actions throughout the week, information about which is online at SLCstopTPP.us.