Release of confidentiality letter
During the Chicago round in September 2011 TPP negotiators were asked to release the letters setting out an understanding among TPP countries on the handling of negotiating texts and other documents exchanged in the course of the negotiations.
At the start of the TPP process it was agreed that such papers would be treated in confidence in order to facilitate candid and productive negotiations. This treatment is in line with normal negotiating practice.
We agreed to formalize that understanding in an exchange of letters. New Zealand as the depository for the original P4 agreement coordinated the exchange of letters. Below is the model version of that letter.
Although this letter provides that negotiating documents are not to be publicly released, it is important to note that the TPP governments have collectively made a sustained effort to offer greater transparency in the TPP negotiation. Stakeholder programmes during negotiating rounds have included opportunities for stakeholders to engage with negotiators, to present and exchange views during stakeholder forums, and to hear from chief negotiators at stakeholder briefings.
In addition, each TPP country has domestic arrangements for active consultation and information exchange, which will continue as the negotiation proceeds.
The Australian Government’s Trade Policy Statement, released in April 2011, highlights transparency as one of the five principles underpinning the Government’s approach to trade policy. Consistent with this approach as the TPP negotiations have progressed, the Government has held a range of meetings and teleconferences in state and territory capitals to provide updates on the progress of negotiations and to seek input from state and territory governments and other interested stakeholders. Additional consultations focused on specific sectoral areas have also been held.
Updates on the TPP negotiations are also posted on our website after the conclusion of every negotiating round. The Australian Government will continue to take every available opportunity to consult with stakeholders and is always open to receiving written submissions and meeting with interested parties. Input received through this consultation process is used to inform the Government's priorities and objectives for Australia's involvement in the TPP.
As depository for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, we have been asked to advise participants of important points regarding the handling of the documents we exchange during these negotiations and seek confirmation that you agree with this approach.
- First, all participants agree that the negotiating texts, proposals of each Government, accompanying explanatory material, emails related to the substance of the negotiations, and other information exchanged in the context of the negotiations, is provided and will be held in confidence, unless each participant involved in a communication subsequently agrees to its release. This means that the documents may be provided only to (1) government officials or (2) persons outside government who participate in that government’s domestic consultation process and who have a need to review or be advised of the information in these documents. Anyone given access to the documents will be alerted that they cannot share the documents with people not authorized to see them. All participants plan to hold these documents in confidence for four years after entry into force of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, or if no agreement enters into force, for four years after the last round of negotiations.
- Second, while the negotiating documents are confidential, each participant may mail, e-mail, fax, or discuss these documents over unsecured lines with the groups of people mentioned above (i.e., government officials and persons who participate in the domestic consultation process). The participants may also store these documents in a locked file cabinet or within a secured building; that is, the documents do not need to be stored in safes. Each participant can also create and store these documents on unclassified computer systems.
- Lastly, the participants will mark the documents they create in a manner that makes clear that the documents will be held in confidence.
The policy underlying this approach is to maintain the confidentiality of documents, while at the same time allowing the participants to develop their negotiating positions and communicate internally and with each other. We look forward to your confirmation that you agree with this approach.
TPP Lead Negotiator, New Zealand