What the public can see of the “classified” TPP
A briefing was held this week between members of Congress and the U.S Trade Rep Michael Froman and staff at the Labor Department on details of Trans Pacific Partnership, the so-called trade pact between the US and 12 Latin American and Asian countries.
The briefing wasn’t just a normal meeting. It was labeled “classified,” meaning lawmakers and any of their staff who attended are barred, under threat of punishment, of revealing what they learn with constituents or outside experts.
The meeting—focused on the section of the TPP that deals with the controversial ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ process (or ISDS), which establishes how disputes over so-called trade “barriers” under the proposed agreement would to be resolved. The negotiations have been conducted in secret– secret to the public that is. Reps from 600 transnational corporations have been consultants to the negotiations. Members of the US Congress have, for the most part, also been kept in the dark.
The ISDS calls for establishing a “tribunal” that would serve the function of a court to adjudicate disputes. The disputes could be between two nations or between a nation-state and a corporation. What a nation-state calls a democratically enacted labor law, consumer law or environmental law the corporation could call a barrier to allow goods or services it produces from entering their market. is an anti-democratic travesty — which is why, no doubt, the meeting about it has was labeled “classified.” The unelected “tribunal”(composed of corporate friendly members) would only rule on the question of whether the democratically enacted laws are barriers, not whether they promote worker justice, consumer safety, environmental sustainability or national sovereignty and self-determination. The ISDS would trump national democratic self-governance.
No wonder the Obama Administration and its pro-corporate allies in the House and Senate who support the TPP haven’t come clean about its provisions.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) condemned the classified briefing. “Making it classified further ensures that, even if we accidentally learn something, we cannot share it. What is [Froman] working so hard to hide? What is the specific legal basis for all this senseless secrecy?…Open trade should begin with open access…Members expected to vote on trade deals should be able to read the unredacted negotiating text.”
“If the TPP would be as good for American jobs as they claim, there should be nothing to hide,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)
Critics of the administration assert that applying national security-style limits on such information is an abuse of the classified information system. It’s not as if the TPP describes how to make nuclear weapons or reveals CIA spies in foreign nations. Nor is it about trying to prevent other nations from knowing what’s in the proposed agreement — since the negotiations are with representatives of foreign nations.
The super secrecy is designed for one purpose and one purpose alone — to keep the details of this anti-democratic deal out of the public and media spotlight for as long as possible.
The TPP is not about in the end trade at all — be it free or fair. It’s about democracy — who rules, who decides. Will be it We the People through our elected representatives. Or will be it corporations using the shield of “trade barriers” to overrule national rules for increased power and profit.
The TPP and the Fast Track negotiating authority, which allows the administration to ram the TPP through Congress with minimum debate and no amendments, come up for a vote soon. It you haven’t already contacted your Senators and Congressperson, now’s the time. Even if you have, now’ the time to do so again.
Fast Track and the TPP are about increasing corporate rule and rights, not about democracy, justice, safety or sustainability.