Policy Letter

Groups Call for Transparency in TransPacific Partnership Negotiations

Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia

Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

Sebastian Pinera, President of Chile

Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan

Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia

Enrique Pena Nieto, President of Mexico

John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand

Ollanta Humala, President of Peru

Tony Tan, President of Singapore

Ma Yingjeou, President of Taiwan

Barack Obama, President of the United States of America

Truong Tan Sang, President of Vietnam

November 21, 2013

We, the undersigned civil society groups, urge you to conduct any further trade negotiations in a manner consistent with the democratic principles of openness and accountability.

Countries participating in the TransPacific Partnership negotiations must reconcile the radically secretive process against the transparency values they purport to hold, to strengthen the legitimacy of any international agreements, and to seek appropriate balance between corporate and public interests.

The TransPacific Partnership is a binding international agreement that could have far-reaching implications for commerce and trade around the globe, while modifying or undermining policies affecting consumer safety, access to medicine, intellectual property rights, and internet freedom. Twelve Pacific Rim countries participated in the most recent round of negotiations, which took place this August in Brunei, and several others have expressed interest in joining.

This agreement has the power to override national and local legislation on any number of issues because signatories to the TransPacific Partnership will be required to bring existing and future national policies into compliance with the international norms established in the agreement. Despite the substantive importance of this agreement and growing international support for “open government” principles, it has been negotiated in secret, with only cursory input from the public; only government officials and a small group of industry representatives have been given access to the drafts of this agreement.

Many of the very same countries that have participated in the secret TransPacific Partnership negotiations, including Chile, New Zealand, the United States, Australia, Peru, Mexico, and Canada, attended this month’s Open Government Partnership meeting to tout their commitments to transparency. But, the TransPacific Partnership negotiating process has embodied the opposite values -- secrecy and elite access that undermines the democratic principles that these countries purport to represent.

The secrecy surrounding the TransPacific Partnership negotiations has led to a widespread and decisively negative public reaction, including growing opposition in the U.S. Congress and among Members of Parliament in New Zealand, frustration in Japan and Australia, and skepticism all around the world. As shown by reaction to recent disclosures by Wikileaks which, for the first time, allowed advocates and experts to see and analyze a portion of the agreement, there is a clear need, and desire, for the public to have access to the negotiation process. Allowing industry representatives, in particular, to have access to the drafts and negotiation process all but guarantees that corporate interests will be represented at the expense of the public interest in areas as diverse as freedom of expression, access to medicine, consumer product safety, and many more.

In order to ensure that democratic principles are preserved, policy makers, civil society, and members of the public must be given the opportunity to have a level of participation and engagement in this process that is at least equal to that of industry representatives. Attempting to conduct international negotiations in secret has proven untenable in the past, with public opposition swelling when details of the plans are apparently leaked by those in positions of power who share these concerns. We believe that it is time for governments around the world live up to their own rhetoric and extend their commitments to openness and public participation to the TransPacific Partnership and any future negotiations.


Africa Freedom of Information Centre

ARTICLE 19, Global Campaign for Free Expression

Center for Effective Government

Center for Independent Journalism, Romania

Centre for Law and Democracy

Christopher Allan Webber

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington CREW

Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society

Common Cause Zambia

Concerned Citizen

CPI Foundation, Sarajevo

David Eaves

Diritto Di Sapere

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente

Global Financial Integrity

Government Accountability Project

Knowledge Economy International


International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development INFID

Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense Association

Melbourne Social Forum

New Rules for Global Finance


Oxfam America

Pro Media

Project On Government Oversight (POGO)

Public Knowledge

Sean Flynn, American University Washington College of Law

Sunlight Foundation

The Open Knowledge Foundation