Via Inside US Trade, this is from the draft Statement of Administrative Action for the TPP:
1. Implementing Bill
g. Dispute Settlement
Section 105(a) of the bill authorizes the President to establish within the Department of Commerce an office responsible for providing administrative assistance to dispute settlement panels established under Chapter 28 (Dispute Settlement) of the TPP Agreement and panels established pursuant to the Appendix between Japan and the United States on Motor Vehicle Trade (Appendix D to the Schedule of the United States to Annex 2-D). This provision enables the United States to implement its obligations under Article 27.6 of the TPP Agreement. This office will not be an “agency” within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. 552, consistent with treatment provided under other U.S. free trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and free trade agreements with Australia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Colombia, Korea, and Panama. Thus, for example, the office will not be subject to the Freedom of Information Act or the Government in the Sunshine Act. Since they are international bodies, panels established under Chapter 28 are not subject to those acts.
Section 105(b) of the bill authorizes the appropriation of funds to support the office established pursuant to section 105(a).
So there are "international bodies" (in the form of TPP panels) that exist, and are assisted by an "office" "within" a U.S. government agency (the Department of Commerce). This office is not, according to the provision quoted above, itself an "agency," and thus is not subject to some of the normal requirements of U.S. agencies, such as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
A couple thoughts:
-- This exists under previous trade agreement as well, but I can't recall anyone exploring the various political science and legal questions that arise here. Has anyone filed FOIA requests related to the NAFTA Secretariat or other FTA Secretariats? If there ever are any TPP panels, I can imagine someone deciding to test these FOIA restrictions.
-- Are there other examples of offices within a U.S. government agency, outside of the FTA context, that do not count as an agency?
-- I would be curious to know how other countries handle this issue.