White House refuses FOIA request for documents on country positions on transparency of ACTA negotiations

On June 2, 2010, KEI submitted a FOIA request to the White House Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). The request covered:

1. Documents relating to the position of the United States as shared with third-country negotiating partners during the 9th round negotiations of ACTA that took place in Lucerne, Switzerland from June 28 to July 1, 2010, including but not limited to position papers, analyses and records of verbal communications on the topic of the public release of the draft negotiating text of the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

2. Documents that identify the positions of any other country in the ACTA negotiation during the Lucerne meeting on the issue of the transparency of the draft ACTA text, including but not limited to position papers, analyses and records of verbal communications.

On January 10, 2013, we received a response from Melissa Keppel, Associate General Counsel for USTR. (Attached as PDF).

In the response, the White House claims there were no records for the first item, and 16 pages of responsive records for the second item. But the White House claimed all 16 pages “are exempt from disclosure under the deliberative process prong of section (b)(5) of the FOIA.” So, two years and six months after the initial request, the White House says that the positions of countries on the issue of ACTA transparency are themselves not transparent, and part of the Obama Administration’s growing cloak of secrecy regarding trade negotiations.