Corporate lobby groups? Yeah, they can read it. Big campaign donors? They can read it, too. But can the news media and U.S. public read it? — No way! That would be un-American. Welcome to the secretly negotiated trade treaty known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Or actually, if you are a voting, taxpaying U.S. citizen, you are not really welcome at all.
Not even Congress members are allowed to know much about the TPP. A member of Congress may view the draft, but only in a special room where he or she may not take notes. Their staff members (whom they need to explain it to them) are not allowed to see it, and Congress members are not allowed to discuss it with experts who could explain its legal significance.
Congress may soon be asked to vote on the TPP on a take-it-or-leave-it basis: an up or down vote with no input, no amendments, no Congressional understanding, and no public understanding. Critics say it will give away some of the key environmental protections that are now in U.S. law. Defenders of the TPP process, such as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, disagree, saying it will not hurt the environment and will enhance trade.
But since we are not allowed to know what is in it, we have no basis for knowing whose claims are right.
The whistleblower group WikiLeaks, whose leader the U.S. government is hoping to prosecute, has done the public a service by obtaining and leaking the latest negotiating draft of the TPP environmental chapter.
You may want to read it before Congress votes — and while it is still legal to do so.
- "WikiLeaks Exposes What Obama's Secret Trade Deal Would Do to the Environment," Huffington Post, January 15, 2014, by Kate Sheppard.
- "Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: Environment Chapter — Consolidated Text," November 24, 2013, Trans-Pacific Partnership Environment Working Group Chairs (via WikiLeaks).
- "Major Political Donors Have Access to TPP Documents. Everyone Else? Not So Much," TechDirt, January 16, 2014, by Mike Masnick.