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WHY ALL THE SECRECY?

July 9, 2016

 

WHY ALL THE SECRECY?

Details of the proposed TPP trade pact are within the view of the USTR (United States Trade Representative) but not you and me. Why not? Why should the proposed trade agreement that will affect 40 percent of the world’s trade be kept a closely guarded secret by the USTR? Why the cover-up?

The USTR does have an upper hand in the deal (which is in the process of fine-tuning by the parties involved prior to re-submission to Congress for an up or down vote) which they have exploited by keeping the text of the proposed trade pact a secret. If we the people don’t know what’s in it and how it might affect our interests (outsourcing of jobs and capital, loss of sovereignty etc.), we will have no grounds to complain, which strikes me as a dictatorial rather than democratic use of power since the USTR (at least theoretically) represents us and it is our interests that are or could be at stake.

It occurs to me that the reason for the secrecy is that the USTR has been captured by Wall Street interests and that it is the Street’s interests and not ours that the USTR is representing. Why? Well, some parts of the proposed pact have become known from releases by Wilileaks, and virtually all of the 29 chapters of the agreement we know about are devoted to the protection and expansion of corporate banking and intellectual property rights along with robust enforcement provisions of their terms while only a few chapters are devoted to labor and the environment, whose enforcement provisions are weak to non-existent.

The arrogance of the USTR in keeping the peoples’ business from the people is further demonstrated by the fact that even their cleared advisers have complained that they haven’t seen updated text for years and must depend upon the USTR to learn about changes, and without the specific language as a guide and check on what the USTR has designated as “changes.” After years of complaints, members of Congress received access to the text, but get this – only in a secure room, after handing over their cell phones and without invitation of staff experts, or taking notes etc. In other words, it’s not just the people who are kept in the dark, but even the peoples’ representatives are limited to a spoon-fed diet of what the USTR is dishing out. Such congressional scrutiny as so limited of what is, after all, only a proposed trade pact, makes one think that the meetings were about war and peace what with all the bells and whistles that come with gravity and secrecy of whether to initiate an atomic war. It was and is no such thing – it’s only a trade deal bound to the interests of corporate America and the ill-defined political objectives of our military interests.

I think this is a case of where the tail is wagging the dog, and that there is a lot we and our elected representatives can do to corral this rogue agency which somehow has decided that it is not responsible to those who created it, like defunding it or abolishing it and coming up with a new trade agency with a new set of governing rules that put the public and their representatives in a position to know what is going on during trade negotiations in the future. When you add the further fact that those members of Congress who viewed the pact’s text cannot discuss the contents of the text publicly, it becomes apparent to me that the USTR’s office has been taken over by Wall Street, that the secrecy is deliberate and designed to deceive the public with a view toward prevention of informed opposition to the language of the proposed pact. I think that intolerable irrespective of the TPP’s text. The USTR’s office is a public office, not a Wall Street office, at least ostensibly.

I wrote a blog on the TPP several months ago in which I questioned whether this was a trade pact or a political pact, since China was uninvited and the countries ringing China were invited. I suggested then that the object of the pact may be to blunt China’s increasing influence with its neighbors. Of course, that may be one of multiple rationales for such a pact, but it is instructive to find that the Obama Administration’s economic rationale for TPP has been downplayed after there was congressional resistance to an up or down vote, and is now stressing instead a geopolitical imperative to assist allies in Asia and provide regional counter-balance to China.” I think I was on to something in my earlier essay.

The current administration (and, of course, the hawks) have spun Congress’s failure to pass the TPP (so far) in terms of “dark consequences of lost prestige and irreparable harm” and claim that opponents to its passage are “protectionists.” I disagree, and think such accusations are a cover and diversion for the real plan, i.e., the delivery of more of the same we have seen in previous trade treaties with giveaways to Wall Street’s corporate interests and, so far as protectionism is concerned, the old mantra that elevates “free trade” as an automatic good when the deals mainly benefit the executive suites doesn’t work anymore with its name-calling. We can prevent further hijacking of our economy and protect our workforce from competition with Viet Nam’s 50 cents an hour wages (aka importing unemployment) by telling our representatives in Congress to vote no on the TPP when and if it is resubmitted for a vote.

I do not believe in using trade treaties to attain military objectives nor do I believe in using trade treaties as a vehicle to turn over the interests of the people (jobs etc.) to Wall Street and the Pentagon. I think the hawks and Wall Street con artists should find another vehicle on which to hang their prestige (such as it is), profits, and Machiavellian ventures.

I suppose I am old-fashioned in that I always thought that trade agreements were about, uh, trade, and still do. Perhaps the TPP is not at bottom a trade agreement since, after all, we already have trade agreements with six of the eleven prospective signatories, but what do I know? The USTR won’t tell us ordinary Americans what the proposed agreement contains, and my vote is no until someone tells me more specifically just what is in that document, and will probably be no after (if ever) its terms become public.  Information, please!   GERALD     E

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