USTR Nominee Confuses Transparency With Listening
from the other-direction,-mr.-froman dept
We’ve already explained why were were worried that new USTR nominee Michael Froman would be as bad, if not worse, than his predecessor, Ron Kirk. And, in his Senate approve hearings he provided little to change that opinion:
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) raised the extraordinary secrecy shrouding the Obama administration’s trade negotiations to date. Wyden has blasted USTR’s incredible decision to keep the negotiating text of the sweeping TPP pact, affecting everything from food safety to Internet freedom, hidden from the U.S. public and even from members of Congress. Not even the Bush administration attempted that degree of secrecy. Wyden asked, “If confirmed, will you make sure that the public…gets a clear and updated description of what trade negotiators are seeking to obtain in the negotiations so that we can make this process more transparent in the future?” Wyden further asked that negotiating texts be placed online. Froman responded by saying he agrees with the principle of transparency. But instead of committing to a meaningful fulfillment of that principle by releasing the TPP text online (as done under Bush), he reiterated USTR’s general desire to seek input from “stakeholders.” It is of course difficult for stakeholders to provide meaningful input if they cannot see the thing in which they have a stake.
Of course, as we’ve explained many times, transparency has nothing to do with seeking input from stakeholders, but the opposite: providing information to the public. Listening is important to understand what’s going on, but that’s not transparency.
It’s pretty simple: information flowing into the USTR is not transparency. Information flowing to select interests is not transparency. Releasing information to the public is transparency. How does the USTR continually get away with pretending otherwise?
Separately, as the article linked above notes, Froman refused to comment on whether he supported investor-state dispute resolution mechanisms that are showing up in trade agreements and which, as we’ve been highlighting, are so dangerous. He’d only say it’s a matter worthy of discussion. But then refused to discuss it. Which says a lot. He also claimed he was going to continue to seek fast track authority, which they renamed Trade Promotion Authority — which basically forces Congress to sign away its right to oversee what’s in TPP. These are all very worrisome statements, because it means we’re getting more of the same: a USTR that wants to make an end-run around the public and Congress, but which is driven by the interests of some of the largest companies.