Two Former White House Tech Advisors Tell The President To Actually Be Transparent About Trade Deals
from the what-a-concept dept
Two former Obama tech staffers — Professor Colleen Chien (who advised the administration on intellectual property issues) and Quentin Palfrey (who worked for years in the Commerce Dept and the Office of Science and Technology Policy on intellectual property issues) — have written a fantastic opinion piece for The Hill, arguing that the White House has one last chance to actually be transparent in trade negotiations as it moves forward with the TTIP agreement with the EU. The piece notes that part of the reason that the TPP agreement is in so much trouble was its secrecy:
Largely due to the secrecy of the negotiation process, the TPP long bred suspicion. When its terms finally became public last fall, opposition to the process quickly hardened into opposition to the agreement?s terms ? which both Democrats and Republicans say need improvement before it can be passed. The text has been 10 years in the making, but only recently did the public get access to its terms. Since multiple leaks made most of the negotiated terms an open secret, why did the Administration wait so long to formally disclose the text?
They admit that the USTR’s standard answer — that trade negotiations rely on secrecy, and you don’t want to give up an advantage — may have some validity, but argue that it’s almost certainly outweighed by other factors. They then raise three key points for being much more open and transparent on trade deals (all issues we’ve raised in the past):
- Quality suffers when there is no free and open debate.
- “Exporting U.S. law” is hard and can lead to unintended consequences.
- Trade policy should reflect our democratic ideals
To be honest, all three of these are basically the same argument phrased differently, but they’re all valid points. And they then urge the White House and the USTR to take the (not really that big) step of opening up the negotiating texts of the TTIP agreement. Since it’s just between the EU and the US, it’s not even as complicated as the TPP where you were negotiating with over a dozen countries. And the EU has been much more transparent in negotiating its trade deals, and has pledged to be on the TTIP as well. So, really, why does the USTR continue to take such an undemocratic, archaic viewpoint in negotiating these deals? The only explanation that makes sense is that it’s the best way to sneak in favors for certain industries — and given the ongoing “revolving door” between the USTR and certain large, legacy industries, perhaps that really does explain most of the issue.