August 29, 2012 | By Maira Sutton

TPP Countdown: USTR Whittles Away at Remaining Trace of Public Participation

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with several other civil society organizations and concerned individuals, will be in Leesburg, Virginia in early September for the 14th round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). On September 9th, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) is hosting its "Direct Stakeholder Event." This consists of both a tabling event, where public interest groups, industry groups, private companies, and others will sit alongside each other at tables in a designated room outside the official secret meeting area, as well as a public "stakeholder presentation" where representatives from various organizations and companies can discuss an issue of their choosing relating to the content of the TPP.

Image of Krista Cox of KEI speaking to Chief US Negotiator Barbara Weisel
Source: The USTR's TPP event page

These so-called "Direct Stakeholder Events" are a joke. It is a way for the USTR to take photos of public interest group representatives and claim that they are providing opportunities for public participation, when in fact, they continue to negotiate TPP in secret without releasing any of the text or proposals for this powerful international agreement.

The latest update from the USTR would be laughable if it weren't so depressing.

We just received an email from the USTR indicating that they are going to cut down the already inadequate 15-minute time allotment for our stakeholder presentation, to a mere eight minutes. In addition, they will all be held in four separate rooms. So not only will the presenters have barely any time to discuss their specific concerns with the agreement, it will literally be impossible for negotiators to attend all the presentations they would be interested in hearing since they will all be held simultaneously in different locations. Moreover, this entire round of negotiations will last 10 full days, and so it seems especially odd that they would need to cut down time for public participation this drastically.

We have included the email below in its entirety.

Good evening,

You are confirmed for a stakeholder presentation slot on Sunday, September 9th during TPP Round 14 Direct Stakeholder Engagement Forum.

Due to space constraints and an overwhelming showing of interest, we will have to limit presentation time to 8 minutes. Each presentation room will have a laptop, projector, and screen. If you would like to give a PowerPoint presentation, all you need to do is bring your presentation with you on a flash drive. No need to send to me ahead of time.
Please plan ahead so that your presentation fills the allotted time. We will have to stop you at the 8 minute mark in order to give every presenter an equal opportunity to make their presentation.

A schedule of presentations will be provided for you at the round. All presentations will be scheduled within the 11:00 am- 2:00 pm block, and take place in Potomac rooms A, B, C or D.

Thank you, again, for your participation. We value your input, and look forward to an on-going conversation regarding TPP.

Very best,


The USTR has persistently claimed that they are being transparent in these negotiations, but this could not be farther from the truth. While the USTR admits that they need a certain level of secrecy "to preserve negotiating strength and to encourage [their] partners to be willing to put issues on the table they may not otherwise," they are still keen on allowing private industry groups in on what they are discussing. The public only knows that certain chapters of the TPP will put heavy restrictions on the Internet due to text that has been leaked.

These backdoor TPP negotiations must be stopped. Help us call on Congress members to demand true transparency in this process and spread the word about this disasterous agreement that will trade away our Internet freedom.


If you live in the United States, join EFF and more than 25,000 people in sending a message to Congress members to demand an end to these secret backdoor negotiations:

Take Action TPP
You can also check out other ways of taking action here.

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