Controversy swirls around a new trade agreement, the TransPacific Partnership, aka, TPP. Politicians and trade representatives beseech the public with respect for their secret negotiations. Don't worry, everything will be alright once we get this thing passed in Congress. It'll be great! Free trade for all!
Why so much secrecy then? The media has been banned from negotiations. Unless you're in favor of the agreement, no one involved in the talks will discuss it with you. The New Zealand Trade Representative insists that to break secrecy on this deal would destroy it. The USTR has nothing to say if journalists are around. So secrecy is the word of the day, even though few in government will utter the word.
This is ironic considering that President Obama was elected on a platform of transparency. One of the first official acts he signed would require federal agencies to err on the side of disclosure when presented with a request under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act. This is a big deal and overturns another executive order that Bush had signed to do the opposite.
So for all of this secrecy, there is one thing on my mind that few if any have talked about. While most people are focused on who will be hurt by this trade agreement, what I want to know is, who will be protected by the agreement? Is this another agreement where we thrust out the middle class out to be in direct competition with the low wage workers of the world while protecting the professional classes like doctors and lawyers? That's what NAFTA turned out to be.
They're calling the TPP a free trade agreement. Well, if it is so great, secrecy shouldn't be a problem because we can all see that the TPP is in the public interest, right? I mean, the government serves the people and the people are the stakeholders. Oh, wait. No, no, no. That's not right. The people are not the stakeholders or they would have been invited to participate.
Who are the stakeholders then? That's a secret.