31 October 2014

Response to EU Ombudsman's Consultation on TTIP Transparency

The EU Ombudsman is running a consultation on how to improve the transparency of the TTIP negotiations.  This shouldn't be hard, since there is currently vanishingly small openness about these secret talks.  However, to keep things simple, I have just one very easy suggestion, as my response to the consultation below explains:

My name is Glyn Moody, and I am a journalist who has written over 40 columns on TTIP (available at http://www.computerworlduk.com/blogs/open-enterprise/ttip-updates--the-glyn-moody-blogs-3569438/.) My comments are based on following trade negotiations closely for many years, including those for TPP, TISA and ACTA. Please find below my responses to the consultation's questions.

1. Please give us your views on what concrete measures the Commission could take to make the TTIP negotiations more transparent. Where, specifically, do you see room for improvement?

There is one one very simple measure that would make the TTIP negotiations highly transparent without limiting the European Commission's ability to keep its negotiating strategy secret - something it claims is necessary.

This would be to make all EU documents and proposals public as soon as they are tabled.

There can be no objection that this will reveal the Commission's strategy to the US side, since the latter can, by definition, see all documents once they are on the table. Releasing them to the public would therefore reveal nothing that the US negotiators did not already know. The US cannot object, since it only concerns the EU proposals, and reveals nothing of the US position (not that this should be secret.) In short, no one could possibly object, unless, of course, the real purpose of negotiations being held behind closed doors is precisely to keep the public ignorant of what is nominally being carried out in their name.

2. Please provide examples of best practice that you have encountered in this area.

Negotiations at WIPO go far beyond simply making tabled documents available, as this article explains in detail (http://infojustice.org/archives/30027). Here are the main points:

"The elements of WIPO’s transparency processes are varied. they start with ongoing releases of draft negotiating documents dating back to the beginning of the process."

"WIPO webcasted negotiations, and even established listening rooms where stakeholders could hear (but not be physically present in) break rooms where negotiators were working on specific issues. "

"WIPO set up a system of open and transparent structured stakeholder input, including published reports and summaries of stakeholder working groups composed of commercial and non-commercial interests alike."

"Transparency in WIPO continued through the final days of intense, often all night, negotiations in the final diplomatic conference. When negotiators reached a new breakthrough on the language concerning the controversial “3-step test” limiting uses of limitations and exceptions in national laws, that news was released to the public (enabling public news stories on it), along with the draft text of the agreement."

This clearly shows how complete transparency is possible, and that negotiations can not only proceed under these conditions, but reach successful conclusions.

3. Please explain how, in your view, greater transparency might affect the outcome of the negotiations.

Real transparency - for example, by publishing all tabled documents - would have a profoundly important impact, since it would offer hope that any final agreement would enjoy public support. Without transparency, TTIP will simply be a secret deal among insiders, imposed from above, rather than any legitimate instrument of democracy.