USTR’s system of NDAs to provide private sector access to ACTA position

USTR has a system I was not that familiar with. For documents the public can’t see, USTR provides access under an NDA to private sector “experts” they want to consult. On Friday I was told by USTR:

“We’ve consulted with an array of experts from various IP and tech industries and associations and NGOs in the process of deliberation regarding a US proposal on one section of the agreement.”

Who had been been given access to the latest section of the ACTA text? The over the phone answer was: revealing the names might present “a risk to national security.” In any case, we have filed a FOIA on this topic.

In our discussion on Friday, USTR explained a bit more about how this works. For ACTA, there are several types of documents. USTR says it is not releasing to anyone outside of the cleared advisory board system the documents that are exchanged with foreign governments, including documents that show the positions taken by other governments in the negotiations. However, for the text the U.S. government wants to submit to the negotiation, and which the U.S. government will not release under FOIA, the U.S is providing access to some interest groups, but not others. For example, KEI certainly has not been offered an opportunity to see documents that USTR is showing others. This selective sharing of ACTA negotiating text is not limited to persons who have security clearances, and it has nothing to do with the advisory board system. If you have good friends at USTR, you will have access. If you don’t, you won’t.