Even as more and more voices are calling for the Anti Counterfeiting Trade agreement to be made public, the United States Trade Representative is insisting in maintaining a veneer of secrecy over the proceedings. While numerous advocates and other governments (including the European Parliament, and officials in the UK, Canada, and the Netherlands (pdf, in Dutch)) are actively calling for full openness and transparency, the U.S. continues to suggest that merely receiving public input is the point of transparency, and fails to call for disclosure of the documents itself.
In a press statement issued this past Monday, the agency said:
Increasing transparency in the ACTA negotiations, including providing improved means for public input into the process, is a priority for the United States…In this upcoming round of ACTA negotiations, the U.S. delegation will be working with other delegations to resolve some fundamental issues, such as the scope of the intellectual property rights that are the focus of this agreement. Progress is necessary so that we can prepare to release a text that will provide meaningful information to the public and be a basis for productive dialogue. We hope that enough progress is made in New Zealand in clearing brackets from the text so that participants can be in a position to reach a consensus on sharing a meaningful text with the public.
In other words, the USTR thinks that transparency should only happen after much of the debate on the text is over, and as it gets closer to being finalized and agreed upon. This statement, coupled with some of the recent Dutch leaks, increasingly indicate that the U.S. is one of the countries hindering, not helping transparency.
As the ACTA negotiators for the various countries meet in New Zealand this week, civil society groups are calling them out on this continued secrecy. Tuesday morning, those groups delivered the Wellington Declaration to the negotiators. Signed by over six thousand people and groups (PK included), the Declaration calls for openness in the process and balance in the substance of ACTA. Even though the document has already been handed over to the negotiators, the petition is still receiving signatures. Sign the petition now to add your voice to those calling for balance and responsibility in ACTA!