The Super Secretive TPP and the Corporate Cabal Writing the Deal
Before the Senate left on its Memorial Day “recess,” it barely managed to pass Fast Track trade authority designed to essentially rubber-stamp the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). That the legislation limped across the finish line of a pro-trade Senate demonstrates the controversial and politically charged nature of Fast Track. The Obama administration has kept the TPP negotiations and the text largely secret — except from the corporate advisors that have been inserting special interest mischief into the TPP trade deal.
The President contends the TPP is the “most progressive trade deal in history,” but if the terms of the deal are good enough to draw support from progressive America, why won’t the President release the text of the agreement?
As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Perhaps surprisingly, President George W. Bush released the draft text of the Free Trade Area of the Americas to the public, and his team’s rationale should be illuminating for the Obama administration. According to then U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, they released the FTAA text “to make international trade and its economic and social benefits more understandable to the public.”
But the TPP has been shrouded in so much secrecy that even Members of Congress have had difficulty accessing the TPP negotiating texts. Up until this year, Members of Congress had to request access to the text that was secured in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). In March, USTR set up a room in the Capitol where Members of Congress could visit the text without making an appointment.
Not everyone took advantage of the convenience. Even the Senators voting for Fast Track were unsure what is in the agreement. Fast Track sponsor and TPP proponent Senator Orrin Hatch admitted that he does not “know fully what’s in TPP myself.”
The justifications for the Top Secret classification of TPP require logical and moral contortions. The TPP is not equivalent to high-stakes national security negotiations (like the nuclear talks with Iran) that would require military or nuclear secrets be kept out of the hands of terrorists. Is it reasonable to think Boko Haram or ISIS would benefit from the TPP text on copyrights, food safety or other arcane trade rules?
The Obama administration is concealing the TPP from the public because, when we find out what’s in there, it will confirm our worst fears: The TPP is largely a giveaway to global corporate interests. The few TPP chapters that have leaked out demonstrate that it’s the same-old corporate trade agenda, not some new, progressive trade deal.
The intellectual property chapter would strengthen pharmaceutical patents and make it harder for generic drugs to get on the market, costing consumers more money and hindering access to essential medicines in the developing world. Believe it or not, the environmental provisions are weaker than the Bush administration trade deals, lacking binding or enforceable provisions to ensure that TPP countries live up to their international environmental obligations. We have written previously of the absurd investment provisions that allow foreign companies to claim damages for commonsense public health, environmental and consumer protections the firms allege frustrate their business plans. These investment provisions were supposed to be kept secret for four years after the TPP went into effect. Super transparent, President Obama.
It is really no surprise that these giveaways are tucked into the TPP — about 85 percent of the trade advisors providing input to the negotiations are corporations and trade associations. The list includes pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies like DuPont, Eli Lilly, Croplife America and Dow Agro-Sciences; food manufacturers and retailers like Mars, Campbell Soup, WalMart and Grocery Manufacturers of America; and big agribusiness concerns like Archer Daniel Midland, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the American Meat Institute.
Many of these companies and trade associations bitterly oppose efforts to implement domestic safeguards for workers, consumers and the environment. For example, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and its membership have aggressively opposed state efforts to pass GMO labeling and other commonsense consumer protections. We already know that Fast Track and likely the TPP have provisions that identify GMO labels as “unjustified trade restrictions” that would be targeted for elimination.
It is long past time for the Obama administration to release the text of the TPP. The American public won’t take his word that the TPP is a good deal since what we already know smacks of corporate cronyism and self-dealing in these trade negotiations. Today, the AFL-CIO is calling on the Obama administration to declassify the TPP and let the American people judge for themselves whether this trade deal is a good deal. Food & Water Watch heartily supports this clarion call for transparency: Release the Text!
The House of Representatives is expected to take up Fast Track THIS MONTH. Now is the time to contact your Member of Congress and tell them to vote NO on Fast Tracking the secret TPP.