How Not To Build A 21st Century Trade Agreement: In Secret

from the government-failures dept

The USTR continues to pitch the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement as a “21st Century” trade agreement. However, as the folks at EFF point out, the defining aspect of the 21st century is the fact that the internet has enabled unrivaled transparency. A trade agreement created in secret — though with special access for special interests — is not a 21st-century agreement at all. It’s the opposite. It’s a last-century viewpoint on how the world works.

We’re still not convinced it’s an agreement adequate for 21st century society–especially in an environment where the public, Congress, and civil rights organizations are denied access to the treaty’s official text, while corporate representatives have full access to it. In a world where you can access the complete state code of Utah in Github to engage citizens in legislative drafting, secrecy and backroom deals are not exactly a 21st century way to build the 21st century society.

It’s still never been adequately explained why the USTR feels the need for such secrecy and backroom deals. At best, the answer has been “this is how we always negotiate trade agreements.” That’s not an answer, that’s an excuse. If the USTR is serious about building a trade agreement for the 21st century, it would recognize that it needs to be open and transparent.

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Comments on “How Not To Build A 21st Century Trade Agreement: In Secret”

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rubberpants says:

Re: Re:

The actions of the government are supposed to reflect the will of the people, from whom they derive their authority. In a representative democracy, it’s imperative that citizens know what’s being done on their behalf so they can hold their representatives accountable.

Are you defending the selective secrecy under which “treaty” is being negotiated?

anon says:

LOl at anonymous coward

It is not everyone wanting to know how a trade agreement is processed, all people want to know is how a trade agreement will affect them before it is ratified and becomes law which they have to follow.

Maybe we should create it secret pass it in secret and ratify it in secret and then when it comes to being used in a court not be able to use it because it is a secret that not even the judge can be allowed to see.

MrWilson says:

Re: LOl at anonymous coward

“how a trade agreement will affect them before it is ratified and becomes law which they have to follow.”

This is the bullshit of it all.

That trade agreements that affect citizens as if these agreements were laws are able to get negotiated without public input, much less true representation, is just absurd. I don’t get the impression that powers given to the executive branch to make trade agreements was intended to allow an alternative means of creating “laws.” It seems like it was supposed to be that the president could say, “we’re making a deal with the UK to send them our cotton and they send us the textiles in return,” not, “we’ve made a deal with other countries in which all of our citizens will be bound by these restrictions to the benefit of these corporations who paid us off.”

Androgynous Cowherd says:

Devil's advocate?

Maybe playing the devil’s advocate a bit here, but I have a slight quibble with declaring in no uncertain terms that X is “the defining aspect of” the Yth century after only the first 1/8 of the Yth century has thus far elapsed.

If you’d declared that giant passenger liners on the high seas had been the defining century of the 20th century in July of 1912, for example, you’d have been wrong, and not just because the recent loss of the Titanic with half its hands would put a dent in that industry.

There’s still a lot of time left in the 21st for something analogous to the passenger jet, two World Wars, rapid advances in medicine, or something to come along and completely change the picture. In 2100 the “defining characteristic of the 21st century” might be the first Mars colony, or the quest for biological immortality, or the invention of a way to back up and restore the human mind, or AI, or World War III, or first contact with ETI, or something — or, perhaps most likely, there may be no single thing that stands out above all the others. Was there for the 20th, when all was said and done?

jenningsthecat (profile) says:

TPP is much more than just a trade agreement

According to The Nation, under TPP “Countries would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to the TPP?s rules?in effect, a corporate coup d??tat. The proposed pact would limit even how governments can spend their tax dollars.”

( )

According to Michael Geist, “the TPP would require countries (such as Canada, New Zealand, and Japan – all current or potential TPP members) that meet the international copyright term standard of life of the author plus 50 years to add an additional 20 years to the term of protection.”

( )

Also, see the PDF document comparing ACTA to TPP at

TPP is just a massively beefed-up, more dangerous, more restrictive, more insidious version of ACTA – the benign-sounding name is just a ploy to keep prying eyes looking in other directions while corporations again attempt to bypass those annoying citizens who actually demand a say in the laws that govern them. The public outcry against ACTA derailed its adoption by some countries – the grey eminences behind TPP don’t want that to happen again.

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