Trans-Pacific Partnership Secrecy: Is US Negotiating Sell-Out on Environmental Issues?

May 16, 2012

It's hard to tell whether the US negotiating position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks going on this week in Dallas will be good or bad for the taxpayers' interests on the environment, public health, free press, the internet, or other issues. The talks are secret.

Secrecy is not unusual in trade talks. Nor are treaties favoring the interests of corporations that (unlike the public) often guide the office of the US Trade Representative before and during negotiations. Those treaties are often presented to Congress as a done deal for an up-or-down vote, without amendments.

Various citizen groups (including Citizens Trade Campaign, Public Citizen, California Fair Trade Coalition, Public Knowledge, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation) have protested the lack of transparency as negotiators meet for the 12th time in Dallas May 15-18. Trade Rep. Ron Kirk has insisted that the talks are as open as any.

The 26-chapter draft treaty includes provisions on the environment. But nobody on the outside knows what they are.

Critics such as the EFF and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) are concerned that the treaty's intellectual property provisions will restrict open expression on the internet.