USTR Claims It's Transparent On TPP Because Congress Is 'The People's Representatives'
from the do-they-even-believe-the-crap-they're-spewing? dept
The NY Times has, somewhat bizarrely, almost totally ignored the mess that is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and all of the secrecy behind it. There was a bizarre editorial in December that seemed to present support for the agreement, while admitting that they hadn’t actually seen the agreement. There was a terrible piece by Paul Krugman in which he incorrectly assumed that the TPP was just like any other trade deal. Last week there was an OpEd by David Bonior that highlighted the failures of NAFTA and pointed out that the TPP would likely make income inequality worse in the US, despite the President’s claimed desire to reduce that problem.
However, there’s now finally a piece that takes a look at the key issue most of us have had about the agreement from the beginning: the insane lack of transparency — and the fact that it’s been set up entirely to be about benefiting legacy industries, rather than actually benefiting the public. The piece, by Thomas Edsall, highlights what a disaster the USTR and President Obama have done in negotiating the agreement in such a secretive manner. He notes that while it’s expected that certain groups (such as unions) will almost always fight free trade agreements, the TPP’s secrecy has resulted in supporters of free trade coming out against it as well.
Indeed, if this agreement were actually about free trade — i.e., decreasing tarriffs and lowering barriers to trade across nations — many folks (likely including myself) would be a lot more interested in supporting it. And while there are some elements of that in the agreement, that’s not the problematic stuff. Having an entire chapter on IP? That’s not about lowering barriers to trade, but increasing them. The “corporate sovereignty” section that allows companies to sue governments for not having regulations they like? That’s just an out and out corporate handout designed to harm the public.
But the real issue here is the incredible level of secrecy that the USTR has engaged in throughout this process — and the constant lies it tells anytime anyone calls them on it. In the past, we’ve pointed to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s point that if, as former USTR Ron Kirk claimed, they can’t make the text public because the public wouldn’t allow the agreement to move forward, well, then that seems like a reason not to move forward.
Edsall has that quote from Warren, and then gets the USTR to respond — though the “spokesperson” for the USTR was apparently too chickenshit to actually sign their name to the statements. There’s a reason for that. Whoever said the following knows that it’s pure crap:
“Members of Congress, as the people’s representatives, and staff for our Congressional committees of jurisdiction see and advise the Executive Branch not only on U.S. proposals, but also negotiating text for the TPP. Negotiators are available to walk Members and committee staff through that text and have done so on request. Moreover, USTR regularly briefs additional Congressional staff on the negotiations and U.S. approaches, taking input there as well. All told, we’ve held more than 1,100 briefings on Capitol Hill on TPP alone.”
This is just smoke and mirrors. The idea that Congress is actually “the people’s representatives” is a joke that no one believes. Sure, they’re supposed to be that, but find me anyone who actually believes that’s accurate? Are there a few members of Congress who do really represent the public? Absolutely, but it’s few and far between. In an era where politicians spend between 40% and 50% of their time “dialing for dollars” from wealthy donors and companies, the idea that Congress is actually looking out for the best interests of the public is clearly hogwash.
Of course, even if we accept that crazy statement as true, the rest of the quote is still crap. The USTR loves to tout all those “briefings” it holds with Congress, but most of those are one-directional, in which the USTR hears what someone is saying, but provides no real transparency on what they’re doing. The claim that they allow members and staff to see the agreement? Well, note the careful choice of words. They say “staff for our Congressional committees of jurisdiction.” And yet, as we pointed out not too long ago, when Senator Ron Wyden tried to get his senior staffer who’s an expert on international trade access to the document, he was denied. And Wyden chairs the Senate’s subcommittee on international trade (and is likely to take over the Senate Finance Committee, which is in charge of the whole “fast track” thing). You’d think his staffer wouldn’t have any trouble getting access. But he did.
Given all this, Edsall quotes the still nameless USTR official who argued — apparently with a straight face — that there was transparency because of the USTR’s “advisory committees.”
Froman’s spokesperson, who declined to be identified by name, argued that outside groups are able to present their views on trade negotiations through a system of so-called “advisory committees.”
I like that sleight of hand. “Outside groups.” Except, as we’ve detailed multiple times, these “advisory committees” — such as ITAC-15, which handles intellectual property, is almost entirely made up of giant legacy players looking to protect their position, with no room for input on the impact on the public, or even innovative upstarts who provide a better product for the public. Instead, it’s all about the giant old guard who play the political game to protect their position against upstarts.
Edsall notes that this is a bogus response from the USTR which apparently chose not to respond at all any further.
The good news in all of this, though, is that it highlights that this is a much bigger issue than just the usual opponents of free trade. It’s become such a problem that a lot of traditional supporters of free trade have recognize that the secrecy and lack of transparency over the TPP has resulted in a horrible document that is damaging for the American public and the basic concepts of democracy.
Filed Under: congress, free trade, secrecy, tpp, transparency, ustr
Comments on “USTR Claims It's Transparent On TPP Because Congress Is 'The People's Representatives'”
Well at least they're consistent
They lie to and hide the facts from the people and ‘The People’s Representatives’.
So, Mike, what's YOUR position on TPP?
This is all about trivia, USTR. Your “sleight of hand” here is to avoid the actual treaty or a position on it.
Running an item after it’s come out in NYTimes isn’t on the leading edge of The Resistance, it’s on the trailing edge of The Establishment. (187 of 198)
Re: So, Mike, what's YOUR position on TPP?
There’s this thing called ‘reading’, you might want to look into it some time.
Want to know Mike’s opinion and position on TPP?
News at 6
People in and around government do not understand how government works.
USA is a Republic… or a Representative style democracy (emphasis on representative). We are not an actual democracy despite several misinformed individuals indications.
It is not possible for people to be represented if they are not involved with the discussion because they would have no way to indicate to “Their Representative” how they would like for “Their Representative” to proceed!
I would almost support a new law called the “Stupid people in Government law” where shit as obvious as this earns a straight up execution upon the spot as soon as this level of bullshit is uttered. But we all know that law would be abused too.
Re: News at 6
You’d be among the first to be executed. What, pray tell, do you mean by “actual democracy”?
Too many of you thicker headed/ignorant Yanquis think the word republic is magical. It’s not. You’re (ostensibly) a democratically elected republic. Big deal.
Re: Re: News at 6
What he means by “actual democracy” is probably what is also referred to as “direct democracy”, i.e., the people themselves vote directly on the actual issues rather than (s)electing people to vote as their representatives.
Re: News at 6
When it comes to government, there are two kinds of people: people who are fit to rule, and people who want to rule. They’re mutually exclusive.
Unfortunately, the people who run for election these days are almost exclusively the latter. The end result is a government that, if fictional, would be decried as being too unrealistic.
Re: Re: News at 6
There’s another category, with a population of at least one (that being me): people who don’t particularly want to rule, but who don’t trust anyone else to get it right.
Whether fortunately or otherwise, if I’m any example, such people would have no chance of actually getting elected.
recognising the document as the disaster it is, is not the same as speaking out about it and definitely not the same as having any input taken notice of. when you have the leader of a nation saying one thing and actually doing the other, what hope is there of hearing the truth or actually having anything done that is beneficial to anyone except the legacy industries who write the bloody ‘agreements’ in the first place? when is the rest of the country going to wake up and realise that the whole economy pivots on agreements that leaves out just about every industry except the one that makes movies and plays music? how the hell can a nation actually thrive if that is the only safeguarded industry? and even if it were not the only one, it certainly takes tea and biscuits whereas the others get the crumbs only!!
No. The IP industry has a much harder time with the concept of free trade. The other industries can remove differences in how laws are enforced and they can get something out of tarriff removals and quotas and that jazz.
The IP industry has already got zero tarriffs and there are only very few countries with other measures to stop culture (China ie.). Therefore the IP industry has to fight for new measures on enforcement of IP and that is why they are capable of sinking the negotiations. The IP industry was priviledged in the past. They are now trying to expand, where there is nothing to expand on. They are trying to do more than the fundamental agreement type can dictate and that is the problem.
The corporate sovereignty was a slam dunk in the past. It is a new thing that someone could actually be against it (other than mostly workers unions and anti-globalisation protesters). Just furthers the point of how far these agreements have come in terms of extend.
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There’s no such thing as “the IP industry”.
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How could you say that, of course there’s an ‘IP industry’, who else do you think it is that sells you your food when you go shopping?
Re: Re: Re:2 Re:
That’s called a ‘TeePee’ industry – that’s why this is called the TPP; because it’s Taking the Plutocratic Piss.
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Uh, what do we call the people who lobby for, register, and litigate over it, then?
Re: Re: Re:2 Re:
They’re lobbying for the particular industry they’re lobbying for, be it movies, music, whatever.
My comment was against the weird idea that they’ve been pushing that everything is, in the end, “the IP industry”. If everything is, then the term means nothing and, effectively, nothing is.
But, technically, there is an IP industry of sorts. It’s not the industries that generate entertainment, software, etc., though. It’s lawyers.
The People's Represetatives?
Whoa, whoa, whoa, Gabroni.
Is that what the USTR thinks?
It DOESN’T MATTER what the USTR thinks.
Because we all know the USTR, Congress, and the rest of the federal government is a stinking, honking pile of unadulterated grade A monkey crap.
There is only one “People’s Representative”, and that is the Great One himself. And what this government needs is for the millions (and millions) of his fans to layeth the smacketh down upon the perpetrators of this fraud.
And what the USTR needs to do is know their role, and shut their mouths, and do the job they are suppose to do.
Then they can take those disasters of textual crap they call trade agreements, shine them up real nice, turn them documents sideways and shove them straight up their candy asses.
Admit it, if you watched WWE 15 years ago, you were reading that in Dwayne Johnson’s voice by the end.
Some light reading...
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness….”
Re: Some light reading...
That’s not light reading.
Maybe we should make people recite the Declaration of Independence before they are allowed to vote?
The idea that Congress is actually “the people’s representatives” is a joke that no one believes. Sure, they’re supposed to be that, but find me anyone who actually believes that’s accurate
So because the people have failed by continuing to re-elect someone who actually represents them, the USTR should turn to crowd sourcing rather than utilize the constitutionally-enshrined principle of representative democracy? Maybe, just maybe a very large number of representatives do actually represent the views of a majority of their constituents on a majority of their issues. Otherwise, as we’ve seen they tend to get voted out. Just look at the Teabaggers, “Arab Spring”. That was as much about voter disenchantment than anything else. Also what percentage of eligible voters vote in your Congressional district? I know in mine it’s about half. If you don’t vote, don’t complain. If you do vote and find your self in disagreement with your representative’s position- it’s likely that your side of the issue is different that than of the majority of voters in your district.
“So because the people have failed by continuing to re-elect someone who actually represents them”
This isn’t the result of people failing to elect the right people. The problem is systemic. Once in office, representatives have a choice: play along with the power and money and be able to do some small amount of actual good on the side, or be unable to do anything at all.
“Just look at the Teabaggers”
The Tea Party isn’t the example you think. The Tea Party is funded by, promoted by, and works in the interests of, corporate America and Big Money. Without that support, they wouldn’t have every grabbed any power. That many of their members don’t think this is true is the genius of the Tea Party.
“If you don’t vote, don’t complain.”
I couldn’t disagree with this more strongly. Voting is, in my opinion, very important. But it’s not a panacea. Every citizen, voting or not, should be agitating to better the world they live in.
“it’s likely that your side of the issue is different that than of the majority of voters in your district.”
This is possible, but it is objectively true that often this isn’t the case at all.
Re: Re: Re:
Members get tossed every cycle for pissing off their voting constituents. Playing to power and money help but not if it against the interests of a majority of their electorate. Remember there’s a measure of power and money on the opponent’s side too.
Yes, shitbags like the Koch brothers throwing around money helped the cause. But largely they mobilized the disenfranchised non-voters as much as created converts. People vote, not money. If more people took voting seriously there’d be many fewer problems in the governance of this country. Of course, that also implies that people actually understand the issues. Right now we have bumper sticker politics. Few people are willing to get more than an inch deep in an issue. Until that changes, a good slogan will always trump good policy.
So what better way to agitate than to educate oneself on the issues, vote for someone who reflects your point of view and keep him/her accountable at the ballot box.
Congressmen sometimes do vote contrary to the will of the majority of their constituents. Sometimes it’s to get support on a more important bill, other times it’s because they understand the implications and their voters don’t. Then there are certainly occasions where they get it wrong. But whatever the reason, if a majority of voters (not simply constituents) del that their rep isn’t aligned with them overall- he/she will be gone.
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Yes, yes, I know the rhetoric. I even used to believe it. I simply don’t anymore — there are exceptions, but on the whole I think the whole spiel is untrue. I’ve seen way too many examples to the contrary and way too few examples to support it.
Re: Re: Re: Re:
“Congressmen sometimes do vote contrary to the will of the majority of their constituents.”
– Most representatives in Congress vote contrary to the will of the majority of their constituents on a regular basis.
“Sometimes it’s to get support on a more important bill”
– More important to them, not their constituents
“other times it’s because they understand the implications and their voters don’t”
– Yeah, right. And they regularly elucidate said reasoning in clear and concise communication with their constituents. – LOL.
” Then there are certainly occasions where they get it wrong”
– In whose opinion?
“But whatever the reason, if a majority of voters (not simply constituents) del that their rep isn’t aligned with them overall- he/she will be gone.”
– Bullshit. Gerrymandering and electoral fraud have created guaranteed seats within Congress. Blaming voters for electing idiots demonstrates a lack of understanding.
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^This. A thousand times this.
So because the people have failed by continuing to re-elect someone who actually represents them, the USTR should turn to crowd sourcing rather than utilize the constitutionally-enshrined principle of representative democracy?
No one said anything about crowdsourcing. We just said they should make their negotiating position transparent. After all, they’re trying to lock in laws that impact us all, and we can’t even see it.
I know that you’re paid by companies who want to rush through a bad TPP, but maybe, just maybe, TRY to be intellectually honest.
Maybe, just maybe a very large number of representatives do actually represent the views of a majority of their constituents on a majority of their issues.
Must be why Congress hovers around a 10% approval rating, huh?
Re: Re: Re:
You do a nice job of deliberately misunderstanding the difference between diplomacy and legislation. I’d bet the reason is that Congress has a low approval rating is because the shrill voices of special interests and zealots make it almost impossible to reach agreement on anything more controversial than what to name the new post office branch in Peoria. Treaties like TPP are packages of diverse chapters and in order for these things to have a prayer of passage are kept as a package with different gives and gets in each area. Then the package gets voted on and while some Congressmen may love parts of it and loathe others they need to decide on whether the package makes overall sense and is consistent with the negotiating guidelines set forth prior to negotiations.
And you yammer on about the 10% approval rate of Congress, that is the approval rating of the body- not individual members. I can assure you that if a member seeks re-election carrying a 10% approval rating there’ll be a change in 2014. Public hysterics, special interests and associated pandering shape every vote. That coupled with the fact that most legislation is single issue or fairly narrow makes passage difficult.
Re: Re: Re: Re:
“Treaties like TPP are packages of diverse chapters and in order for these things to have a prayer of passage are kept as a package with different gives and gets in each area. Then the package gets voted on”
Which is one of the big things wrong with this type of treaty.
Re: Re: Re:2 Re:
Actually, its whats right. You and virtually every other Techdirtbag probably couldn’t name a TPP chapter other than the one that deals with your pet obsession. Even if you could pull the name of another chapter out of a hat, I doubt you know of or care about the implications. This sort of zealous, single-issue focus is what is wrong with politics today. You reflexively oppose everything that may (or may not) affect your single issue. You distort your issue to elevate it to be more important than all other issues, singularly or in combination. You bend the truth and deceive others as to the implications of what you advocate for/against- all for your win at all cost outlook on your pet agenda item. You are really no different than the NRA or the Tea Party or any other extremist group.
Re: Re: Re:3 Re:
It’s such a shame that you’ve lowered yourself to insults and ad-hom attacks. We could have actually had an interesting discussion.
Re: Re: Re:4 Re:
It’s a pity you’re such a thin-skinned Nancyboy; We probably could have had an interesting discussion. Though this is a fairly usual tactic for you when you’re writhing in the crushing grip of reason- “boo hoo hoo; you called me a poopyhead so I’m running away”
Re: Re: Re:5 Re:
it is such a pity that you are a lying cunt.
Can’t name another chapter in the treaty?
Well, when I was reading the draft that the USTR put out for us to read and provide our opinions on… Oh, wait, that never happened.
Re: Re: Re:6 Re:
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that someone as obviously stupid as you, couldn’t manage to find out what areas the treaty covers by yourself. Here you go Cleetus, maybe you’uns can git the “libarian” read it to you:
Re: Re: Re:7 Re:
where is the draft text fuck knuckle?
And you call me Cletus…
Grow a brain and stop talking out of your ass.
Re: Re: Re:3 Re:
You and virtually every other Techdirtbag probably couldn’t name a TPP chapter other than the one that deals with your pet obsession.
That’s because they haven’t been published! We can only see the ones that are leaked to Wikileaks.
Re: Re: Re:4 Re:
The areas with which the 29 chapters address are well known to those who have bothered to look. In addition, the corresponding negotiating objectives directed by Congress are also known. Unfortunately, as this is a diplomatic matter they’ve not yet seen the need to ask your input. However, the USTR does have objectives laid out by Congress and they will ultimately be able to vote the treaty up or down.
Re: Re: Re:5 Re:
Instead of being a pompous fucknugget, how about you link us to the draft text? Not some mumbo-jumbo about someone talking about what they once heard might possibly be in the thing. We take our facts straight up.
Can’t you see the wrong assumptions you make to defend the democratic legitimacy here?
When you clamour on about “majority” and 50 % participation in elections, it is not about half being dissatisfied, it is about up to 75 % being dissatisfied, 25 % dissatisfied with the specific representative and 50 % where a lot are dissatisfied with both choices… The representative doesn’t represent a majority as long as the participation is as low as it is! You need at least 67 % participation to have an argument about it being majority and even then it is a thin sauce.
One further problem is that there are more than three sides to every issue and there are only a maximum of three viable choices at election day if you are very lucky (most have only one viable choice because of the geography.). The 10 % approval is probably not too far off of the realistic support of the combination of issue opinion, representative and non-specific dissatisfaction.
Whether that is enough for you is your choice, but seeing majorities where there is none to be had is political zealotry of the same kind as what you attack…
…actually *doesn’t* represent….
No... the joke has been our collective selves all along
Hm… “This is just smoke and mirrors. The idea that Congress is actually “the people’s representatives” is a joke that no one believes.” Sorry Mike, as much as some people like to use tired old excuse – it does not apply here. Whether we call our country a democracy or a republic, the responsibility rests firmly on our collective shoulders. The real joke has been how we have handled that responsibility.
With Carrying the Mantle of Responsibility, Comes Great Power – http://blog.chinadaily.com.cn/blog-135031-9764.html