Emails released under a Freedom of Information Act request show how one chemical company CEO was so pleased with the rules being set by the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal that he joked about making a “royalty payment” to U.S. government officials before bragging, “these rules are our rules.”
400 pages of confidential emails between industry advisors and USTR officials were obtained by Intellectual Property Watch. The USTR (Office of the United States Trade Representative), is the U.S. government agency responsible for developing the United States’ trade policy.
One of the emails was written by Jim DeLisi of Fanwood Chemical, a company that provides “technical marketing, direct sales, manufacturing and regulatory services” to the chemical industry.
Addressed to the USTR’s Barbara Weisel, the email states (emphasis mine);
“Hi Barbara – John sent through a link to the P4 agreement. I have taken a quick look at the rules of origin. Someone owes USTR a royalty payment – these are our rules. They will need some tweaking but will likely not need major surgery. This is a very pleasant surprise. I will study more closely over the weekend.”
The context of the comments suggests that DeLisi is not actually advocating that U.S. officials be paid off, but the remarks clearly indicate how pleased corporations involved in the TPP negotiations are with the rules being made in secret by the U.S. government.
According to Derek Scissors, Ph.D., “rules of origin,” which are particularly key to the TPP, dictate “how to treat goods and services from sources that are not party to the agreement.”
According to Intellectual Property Watch’s William New, the trove of emails, the majority of which are blacked out, “reveal a close-knit relationship between negotiators and the industry advisors that is likely unmatched by any other stakeholders.”
“The cleared advisors in the email exchanges represent a range of industries and companies, including law firms. Among them are (in no particular order): Recording Industry Association of America, PhRMA, General Electric, Intel, Cisco, White and Case, Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed), Motion Picture Association of America, Wiley Rein, Entertainment Software Association, Fanwood Chemical, American Chemistry Council, CropLife, Medtronic, American Continental Group consultants, and Abbott. There is also an exchange with generics pharmaceutical industry representatives,” writes New, noting that many of the industry advisors are themselves former USTR officials.
A whole raft of different issues are raised in the emails, from “access to medicines, Canada and culture, US patent reform, IPR and environmental information, software patentability, relations with the European Union, other trade agreements and international developments, and as expected numerous consultations over elements of the draft treaty text.”
As we reported earlier, President Barack Obama is looking to secure enough votes for Congress to approve the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) next week, which will allow the TPP itself to be fast tracked.
The TPP has attracted controversy due to the bulk of its text being kept secret. From what has emerged, critics assert that the trade package will eliminate U.S. jobs and allow foreign corporations to change laws in the United States with little judicial oversight.