For more than a year the Obama White House has defended the ridiculous position that a sweeping new trade agreement on the enforcement of intellectual property rights should be secret -- from the public.
The agreement is labeled the "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement," or ACTA for short. But as details have emerged, it is increasingly obvious that the agreement is only marginally related to criminal counterfeiting operations -- and covers a vast set of norms for the enforcement of all intellectual property rights, including those involving civil litigation concerning disputes over the infringement of patents and copyrights.
The White House had created a tiered system of access. Foreign governments in the negotiation receive all proposals for treaty text, as do dozens of well connected corporate insiders, lobbyists and law firms. The public is denied access to the negotiating text -- and is told to rely on vague, misleading or completely inaccurate briefings.
Public opposition to the secrecy of the ACTA negotiations is extensive, and several of the 38 countries involved in the negotiation have announced they want the negotiating text made public -- as is typical for other global IPR negotiations.
Today Sweden announced it had obtained an agreement among all members of the European Union to press for public disclosure of the ACTA text. This now leaves the Obama White house as the only real obstacle to transparency.