Jul 062014

sean at podiumFannie Rascle — French journalist (@fannierascle) working for a website called novethic.fr, interviewed me today for an article about TTIP and transparency. Here are her questions and my answers.

European Union documents relating to TTIP could be made public after a European Court of Justice ruling yesterday : do you think it is an important decision ?

I am not an expert on that opinion. I read it to say that the Commission has to justify its decisions to not release documents related to international negotiations. I believe that the justification is weak for not having any method for a country to  share with its own citizens proposals to change international law. The making of law should be the most public of our governmental activities.

In Europe, the TTIP opponents are present in the public debate for months and succeed in being heard . Is it the same in the US ?

I would not say that most US TTIP opponents would say that they “succeed in being heard” if you mean do they influence the process. USTR officials certainly know that groups opposing the negotiation exist and they take meetings and sponsor forums with such groups. And there are members of the US Congress who are interested in the views of TTIP opponents. But the USTR is primarily working with industries that support the treaty and its aims, not its opponents.

Personally, how do you do to get informations about TTIP?

I get information on the agreement from NGOs who follow trade and IP policy, including news generating sites like IP-Watch, KEIonline.org and others, who get information from other groups and from leaks to the press.

Why is transparency about the EU-US trade negotiations so crucial ?

Transparency is crucial if you are looking for policy outcomes that reflect the full consent of the governed, not just some segment. Free trade policy in the US is not currently structured to represent the interests of everyone. It specifically is structured to promote the interests of a few hundred corporate advisors that are permitted to see and comment on all US proposals and have special access to negotiators through the US Industry Trade Advisory Process. I am now in Geneva at the World Intellectual Property Organization where NGOs can sit in negotiations, access draft text and speak to the meetings formally. This transparency affects the interests perceived as relevant in the process and lead to very different — more balanced — outcomes on IP policy.