The White House Has Gone Full Doublespeak On Fast Track And The TPP

from the up-is-down,-black-is-white dept

Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Orrin Hatch are now in a stand-off over a bill that would put secretive trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement on the Fast Track to passage through Congress. The White House meanwhile, has intensified their propaganda campaign, going so far as to mislead the public about how trade deals?like the TPP and its counterpart, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)?will effect the Internet and users’ rights. They are creating videos, writing several blog posts, and then this week, even sent out a letter from an “online small business owner” to everyone on the White House’s massive email list, to further misinform the public about Fast Track.

In a blog post published this week, the White House flat out uses doublespeak to tout the benefits of the TPP, even going so far as to claim that without these new trade agreements, “there would be no rules protecting American invention, artistic creativity, and research”. That is pure bogus, much like the other lies the White House has been recently saying about its trade policies. Let’s look at the four main myths they have been saying to sell lawmakers and the public on Fast Track for the TPP.

Myth #1: TPP Is Good for the Internet

First, there are the claims that this agreement will create “stronger protections of a free and open Internet”. As we know from previous leaks of the TPP’s Intellectual Property chapter, the complete opposite is true. Most of all, the TPP’s ISP liability provisions could create greater incentives for Internet and content providers to block and filter content, or even monitor their users in the name of copyright enforcement. What they believe are efforts toward protecting the future of the Internet are provisions they’re advocating for in this and other secret agreements on the “free flow of information”. In short, these are policies aimed at subverting data localization laws.

Such an obligation could be a good or a bad thing, depending on what kind of impact it could have on national censorship, or consumer protections for personal data. It’s a complicated issue without an easy solution?which is exactly why this should not be decided through secretive trade negotiations. These “free flow of information” rules have likely been lobbied for by major tech companies, which do not want laws to restrict them on how they deal with users’ data. It is dishonest to say that what these tech companies can do with people’s data is good for all users and the Internet at large.

Myth #2: Fast Track Would Strengthen Congressional Oversight

The second, oft-repeated claim is that Fast Track would strengthen congressional oversight?which is again not true. The U.S. Trade Representative has made this claim throughout the past couple months, including at a Senate Finance Committee hearing in January when he said:

TPA puts Congress in the driver?s seat to define our negotiating objectives and strengthens Congressional oversight by requiring consultations and transparency throughout the negotiating process.

Maybe we could believe this if the White House had fought for Fast Track before delegates began negotiating the TPP and TTIP. Maybe it could also have been true if that bill had ensured that Congress members had easy access to the text and kept a close leash on the White House throughout the process to ensure that the negotiating objectives they had outline were in fact being met in the deal. However, we know from the past several years of TPP negotiations, that Congress has largely been shut out of the process. Many members of Congress have spoken out about the White House’s strict rules that have made it exceedingly difficult to influence or even see the terms of these trade deals.

The only way Fast Track could really put “Congress in the driver’s seat” over trade policy would be if it fully addressed the lack of congressional oversight over the TPP and TTIP thus far. Lawmakers should be able to hold unlimited debate over the policies being proposed in these deals, and if it comes to it, to amend their provisions. It would be meaningless if the new Fast Track bill enabled more congressional oversight, but if it did not apply to agreements that are ongoing or almost completed.

Myth #3: Small Online Businesses Would Benefit from Fast Track

Then the third misleading claim is that Fast Track would help small businesses. Their repetition of this has become louder amid increasing public awareness that the TPP has primarily been driven by major corporations. What may be good for established multinational companies could also benefit certain small online businesses as well. The White House says that tariffs are hindering small online businesses from selling their products abroad, but research has shown that the kinds of traditional trade barriers, like tariffs, that past trade agreements were negotiated to address are already close to non-existent. Therefore it is unclear what other kind of benefits online businesses would see from the TPP.

Even if there were some benefits, there are many more ways that the TPP could harm small Internet-based companies. The TPP’s copyright provisions could lead to policies where ISPs would be forced to implement costly systems to oversee all users’ activities and process each takedown notice they receive. They could also discourage investment in new innovative start-ups, even those that plan to “play by the rules”, due to the risk that companies would have to sink significant resources into legal defenses against copyright holders, or face heavy deterrent penalties for infringement established by the TPP.

Myth #4: TPP and Other Secret Trade Deals Are a National Security Issue

The last, and most confounding of the White House’s assertions is that the TPP and TTIP are an “integral part” of the United States’ national security strategy, because its “global strategic interests are intimately linked with [its] broader economic interests.” As we have seen with the U.S. government’s expansive surveillance regime, “national security” is often invoked for policies even if they directly undermine our civil liberties. It is hard to argue with the administration whether the TPP and TTIP are in fact in the United States’ economic or strategic interests, since only they are allowed to see the entire contents of these agreements. Either way, it seems like a huge stretch to say that we can trust the White House and major corporate representatives to determine, in secret, what is in fact good digital policy for the country and the world. We may be hearing this line more and more in the coming weeks as the White House becomes more desperate to legitimize the need for Fast Track to pass the TPP and TTIP.

Conclusion

The fact that the White House has resorted to distorting the truth about its trade policies is enough to demonstrate how little the administration values honesty and transparency in policy making, and how much the public stands to lose from these agreements negotiated in secret. The more they try and espouse the potential gains from Fast Track?while the trade agreements this legislation would advance remain secret?the more reason we ought to be skeptical. If the TPP is so great and if Fast Track would in fact enable more democratic oversight, why are the contents of either of them still not public?

Reposted from the Electronic Frontier Foundation Deeplinks blog

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Comments on “The White House Has Gone Full Doublespeak On Fast Track And The TPP”

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40 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

In Secret

The question I ask myself is: Why do those treaties need to be negotiated in secret?

If they are that good for everyone then it would serve the process of bringing the public on the parties site by making them public. And why do we never hear anything about the possible negative outcome of the things discussed? Nothing is 100% positive, where there is a winner there is a loser.

And please correct me if Im wrong but the only reason the public knows about stuff is afaik because people leaked a draft or two.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: In Secret

Why do those treaties need to be negotiated in secret?

They don’t. It’s just easier this way. They’ll deal with the fallout all at once once it’s in place, then find something else for us to focus on instead, even invade someone if necessary. Sometimes the goal is worth the steamroller approach. Direct access to the treasuries of nations via non-judicial tribunals controlled by lawyers is worth it.

The corps appear to be trying to wrest the world’s economy out of the hands of gov’ts. As a libertarian, I can applaud that ambition, but I doubt they’re going to give Rome back to the people once they win their glorious coup.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: In Secret

Maybe I missunderstand you but in my opinion the world economy isn’t in gov’s hands atm and even if it were all they do is giving it to companies which would (also imo) just be another form of goverment meaning they’d be in charge and make law (government like). The actual people, lower, middle-class folks will never have anything of importance (to say) by doing it this way.

What I guess I’m trying to say is that yeah sure,you are right in that it is easier to play one side against the other in a huge cluster peep once all is said and done but it doesn’t help non-1%ers all that much.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: In Secret

… it doesn’t help non-1%ers all that much.

No, it doesn’t, but that appears to matter not a whit to them. Fascists are taking back the world. Our views on the situation are unimportant (to them). They gave us this sop called democracy for a while to shut us up making us believe we were in control of our destiny, but it’s unwieldy and slow and too inefficient, so they’re putting an end to the experiment and going back to the old ways including oligarchy and plutocracy.

That’s my take on it anyway. Should make for a frustrating and cruel century (at least).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 In Secret

frustrating and cruel century? Meh, I’d call it entertaining but I guess that depends on your participation in the matter. Personally I just do my thing for as long as I want and enjoy the show.
I’m not so sure about the “facist” thing because it all is or becomes more or less the same which leaves few groups/people to hate.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 In Secret

And yes, this will be a very sad, cruel, prohibitionist century to live in. It already is.

Well, buck up soldier. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, and we have had successes. For instance, even the media is starting to come around to the fact that Snowden may have a point. We’ve had a few other successes too, and they still haven’t much of a clue as to how powerful this Internet thingy really is. Ultimately, they’re going to lose this war.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 In Secret

frustrating and cruel century? Meh, I’d call it entertaining …

Eh, I usually would too. Defiance is my usual stance. They’re not going to get away with this !@#$ forever! One of these days, we’re going to get all of us on the same page working for us together, and then we’ll have them cornered with spotlights illuminating for all what they really are: beady eyed little rats that never do anything but take.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 In Secret

I’m not so sure about the “facist” thing because it all is or becomes more or less the same which leaves few groups/people to hate.

Fascist is just an easy name for it, or one example of it. I’m really just pissed at that clique at the very top who get away with things like shooting the economy in the head and telling heads of state what to do; ie. a NeoCon + NATO + IMF backed coup in Ukraine. Wouldn’t that be fun to piss off Putin, just for shits & giggles? Assholes. How many innocent bystanders are caught in the crossfire of their atrocious games?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 In Secret

While I think that “fascist” is accurate here, it suffers a similar problem as “socialist”, etc., just with a different political crowd. Most of the time when I hear people sling the “fascist” label, they really just mean “someone whose perspective I hate.” I think, as with those other labels, most of the people who use it don’t actually know what it means. It makes the word a bit of an easily dismissed red-flag.

That’s why I try to avoid using it and go with “corporatist” instead. They aren’t precisely synonyms, but are more alike than they are different.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: In Secret

When you forget that government ought to be “by the people, for the people,” you will indeed cheer on the corps and call for a money-first society in which “free exchange” is the new normal.

Unfortunately, that results in a “peasants and serfs” setup where the golden rule applies: “He who has the gold makes the rules.”

Given that many libertarians I’ve met right here on TD seem to think that “Take it or leave it” is a choice, your options would be limited to what you can afford in a world where competition is between a gigantic incumbent that owns the law and your decision to take it or leave it.

For this reason I’d rather have the world’s economies in the hands of the governments. TPP is what happens when they’re in the hands of corporations. Who do you think have been doing the negotiations?!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: In Secret

“and call for a money-first society in which “free exchange” is the new normal.”

This reminds me of an old National Lampoon skit where Ronald Reagan is talking with Leonid Brezhnev on the phone. (He calls Brezhnev “Mr. Bear” because he can’t pronounce “Brezhnev”.)

“Mr. Bear, I’m launching all our missiles now. What? You’re launching your missiles too? Well, it’s always good to have a free exchange.”

Anonymous Coward says:

There is no good for the consumer in these trade aggreements if everything is secret until after it is a done deal and sealed.

Were it as good as billed, the whole process would have been open from start to finish so anyone could see what was being discussed. The very fact it is still entirely secret at this point tells you there is an awful lot of bad in it for consumers. It’s the only real reason to hide it.

That they require several countries to break their own open and transparent laws in order to participate tells you just how bad it is. They are quite willing to break laws to see it done. That is not the mark of a good trade deal.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Strategic Interests

Have they got a weapons deal hidden in there someplace? Are we really going to depend upon another nation to build our weapons for us?

Or does it go the other way, and the deal is we supply the weapons to another country? How long till we are at war with THAT country?

We have a war on everything else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Strategic Interests

My guess would be that the strategic interests are more in the economic region than they are military. Maybe the easiest way to understand it is a quote from Mayer Amschel Rothschild:
“Give me control over the money of a nation and I don’t care who makes its laws”
Which can be understood as if you control the economy of a country you control the country itself. This can lead to the conclusion that the US needs secrecy to make sure other countries or their citicans don’t know what hit them after the fact. So yes in one way the government is correct and secrecy is needed but from a democratic and citizen point of view it could be seen as extra-democratic.

Anonymous Coward says:

YOU SAY "TRUST ME"?

I say not only NO but HELL NO! You have proven to be anything but trust worthy. Your lies and devious explanations are legend and ongoing. You have violated your oath of office and the Constitution more times then a cross cut paper shredder. These treaties should be treated like a Constitutional amendment, with the same approval steps and criteria with open publication with ALL details. I would trust you less then a rapist with my daughter. The rapist would only violate my daughter you would violate everyone in the world! And you have the unmitigated gall to say “trust me”, HA.

Anonymous Coward says:

TPP Is Good for the Internet. This means that it is good for Google and Facebook.

Fast Track Would Strengthen Congressional Oversight. This means that there will be more surveillance of elected officials.

Small Online Businesses Would Benefit from Fast Track. This means that they will be put out of their misery quickly.

TPP and Other Secret Trade Deals Are a National Security Issue. Everything the government does is a matter of “national security” when you live under a fascist government.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Fast Track Would Strengthen Congressional Oversight

Awesome. This is faulty circular reasoning and incorrect on its face. Shoving something through the system quickly without appropriate consideration = more oversight. OK…

Yabut, “Fast Track” sounds so … dynamic! It must be better!

People actually fall for this stuff. Fox News and MSNBC are probably nodding their heads right now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, as a nation we’ve been told that we need to always be “moving forward” rather than “looking back” (looking back is sanctimonious). As long as we’re moving forward, we might as well be doing so on a nice smooth, fast track.

Hell, at this point I’m impressed they’re keeping their corpratese consistent.

Anonymous Coward says:

My top priority as President is making sure more hardworking Americans have a chance to get ahead. That’s why we have to make sure the United States — and not countries like China — is the one writing this century’s rules for the world’s economy.”

Write your own damn laws for your own damn LOCAL country, and stop acting as if america owns earth……..YOU might want this, but i, being in a nation OUTSIDE YOUR FUCKING JURISTRICTION, do NOT want our laws dictated by ANY self appointed earth king, i would rather revolt

Fuck BIG governments to hell

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“My top priority as President is making sure more hardworking Americans have a chance to get ahead. That’s why we have to make sure the United States — and not countries like China — is the one writing this century’s rules for the world’s economy.”

Dear President Obama,

NOW can you see what the problem is? Well, thank you for giving the game away.

Love,

The Rest Of The World, AKA “The Serfs.”

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re:

This and national health care are two of the reasons we have a Republican congress at present, not that they can or will do any better.

This and the perception that we now have national health care…

FIFY

You are, of course, right that they can’t and won’t do any better.

BTW we don’t have a national health service because… something something shake a tin cup on the internet if you can’t afford your healthcare costs, you Communist! Or something.

The ACA was a boondoggle for insurance companies, not some kind of socialist deal.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“The ACA was a boondoggle for insurance companies, not some kind of socialist deal.”

This. I tend to shy away from being overtly critical of the ACA because most of the criticism that I hear about it is ridiculous, and I don’t want people to think that I agree with that in any way.

My criticism of the ACA is that it is a massive giveaway to insurance companies and it further cements them into the health care process when what we desperately need to is dramatically reduce their influence over the health care process.

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