May 29 2015

Secret Treaties

The reason it’s secret is because it’s horrible.

Congress Can – and Should – Declassify the TPP

By Robert Naiman

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Although the other negotiating countries and “cleared” corporate advisers to the US Trade Representative have access to the draft TPP agreement, the American people haven’t been allowed to see it before Congress votes on fast track. Members of Congress can read the draft agreement under heavy restrictions, but they can’t publicly discuss or consult on what they have read.

In fact, the Iran nuclear negotiations have arguably been more transparent to Congress and the American people so far than the TPP negotiations. After all, there’s been a sustained public argument over the likely provisions of the Iran deal. It’s very clear now to anyone who cares that the current P5+1 negotiations with Iran, if they succeed, will result in an agreement that allows Iran to enrich uranium. There’s no mystery about that. For those who oppose any agreement that allows Iran to enrich uranium, there’s no need to wait and see what deal emerges before criticizing.

Therefore, a yes vote on fast track now would be a vote to accept that the TPP will have no enforceable provisions on currency manipulation. But this is the kind of transparency that the public has so far been denied by officials shrouding the text and claiming that we shouldn’t talk about the details until the text has been finalized.

This example shows that the question of transparency around the TPP isn’t just a question of administration transparency. As in so many other cases, it’s also a question of congressional transparency.

The two-step process of voting on fast track now and the TPP later – when the fast track vote is in fact the key vote to approve the agreement, and when key, knowable provisions of the TPP agreement are shrouded in public fog at the time of the fast track vote – is designed to allow swing members of Congress to vote yes on fast track while pretending that they are not thereby voting yes on the TPP. Later, some of these members will vote no on passage of the TPP, just as former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) cast a key enabling vote for fast track in 1991 and then subsequently voted against NAFTA.

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