Special 301 Review Includes Hearing for the First Time, Participants Still Seek Greater Transparency

Lydia Grunstra
March 5, 2010

Transparency was a major theme of the Special 301 hearing at the Iternational Trade Commission on Wednesday. Ambassador Miriam Sapiro opened the proceedings by recognizing “the importance of transparency and public consultation” in the Special 301 process, a reference to the USTR’s recent decision to open the annual review process to members of the public. In the past, the USTR has faced criticism for conducting its annual review behind closed doors and adding countries suspected of inadequate IPR enforcement to its Watch List on the strength of rights holder recommendations alone.

The hearing was attended by industry and public interest representatives, many of whom called for even greater transparency in the Special 301 mechanism. One, Rashmi Rangnath of Public Knowledge, encouraged the USTR to clearly state its reasons when adding a country to the Watch List. She also criticized past submissions from industry groups that failed to cite to authoritative sources or articulate their research methodology when detailing acountry’s enforcement failures, and she urged the USTR to arrange for independent, external verification of statistics before accepting industry figures as fact.

The Special 301 Subcommittee also took up the issue of transparency, with moderator and AUSTR Stan McCoy asking several speakers about the need for transparency in pharmaceutical pricing abroad.

It remains to be seen whether the USTR will adhere to its stance on public consultation and extend transparency to the ACTA negotiations scheduled for April in Wellington, New Zealand.

 

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