The latest round of negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement continued in secrecy with a lockout of civil society as 11 nations continued talks on their "corporate-coup-by-trade-pact."
The 15th round of negotiations, the last until March 2013, took place in Auckland, New Zealand and ended on Wednesday.
Watchdogs and digital rights advocates have slammed the TPP for the lack of transparency on the agreement and its corporate-friendly agenda.
Public Citizen has referred to the pact as a "Corporate Power Tool of the 1%" and a "Supersized NAFTA."
As the Auckland talks concluded, Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, who was at the talks, issued this scathing statement:
While the public protests outside TPP negotiations held at the Auckland Skycity Casino and Convention Center grew, talks dragged as U.S. officials doubled down on secrecy and pushed extreme corporate demands that are opposed by many other TPP nations. President Obama’s call to supersize NAFTA is dangerous under any timeline, but to try to do so by next fall in the context of secret negotiations that exclude Congress and the public – while providing access for 600 corporate advisors – is obscene. Either U.S. negotiators can back away from their corporate advisors’ special interest agenda and finish a real trade deal, or they can waste a lot of time attempting a corporate-coup-by-trade-pact that Congress and the public won’t accept.
"The lack of access to the negotiating venue itself in Auckland did little to alleviate ongoing concerns regarding the lack of transparency, and shutting out of civil society in favour of business interests, that have dogged the TPP since its inception," Ellen Broad writes on the ADA site.
What EFF saw was yet increased secrecy. Maira Sutton writes on EFF's Deeplinks Blog: "After participating in previous rounds, we could not have imagined that the process could become any less transparent. Amazingly, it did."
Sutton describes how the voices of civil society were virtually shut out:
Previously we had only been allowed to interact with trade negotiators in the halls of the venue during the 10-day-long meetings, or during a stakeholder tabling event. In the Auckland round, we found that the tabling event was cancelled and that we would not be let into the venue at all, except the single day when stakeholders are allowed to give 15-minutes presentations—which took place on the same day the delegates were given to rest and enjoy tourist attractions around Auckland. Truly, the least they could have done was to send a public notice of these changes ahead of the negotiations. Civil society groups do not have the resources to risk sending advocates across the world to participate in these crucial meetings in the limited way that we can, only to be locked out of the venue at the last minute.
The final agreement is expected to be reached in Oct. 2013.