Bloomberg Points Out That White House's Near Total Lack Of Transparency May Doom TPP

from the indeed-it-will dept

While the NY Times apparently has no problem endorsing the TPP agreement despite not having read it (because it's still totally secret), it appears that other news organizations are feeling differently. Bloomberg's editorial folks have written a pretty strong editorial slamming the Obama administration for the unnecessary and counterproductive secrecy around the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. And this isn't from people who are against the overall agreement. To the contrary, they argue that a good free trade agreement between pacific rim countries would be very helpful for economic and job growth. But the near total lack of transparency by the US may doom the entire project.

The Bloomberg editorial notes that, contrary to USTR Michael Froman's laughable claims of transparency, last week's leak of the IP chapter showed how little transparency there had been, since the US was asking for lots of very controversial things, without any willingness to discuss this with the public. As they note, just because items are controversial, it doesn't mean that the federal government should hide them from both Congress and the public -- in fact, quite the opposite.
The administration may cite the controversies such provisions would provoke as a reason for keeping them secret. Yet just because a deal creates tension among competing interests isn’t a license to keep them uninformed. And the U.S. has invited more than 500 corporate advisers to help it negotiate a deal.

Corporations and trade groups, however, don’t represent the broader interests of consumers, workers, environmentalists and … oh, yes, taxpayers. Theoretically at least, representing them is Congress’s rightful role. Keeping it in the dark feeds the perception that the TPP is a special-interest free-for-all.
Basically, the argument here is similar to what I said last week: there wouldn't be this kind of controversy if the USTR had sucked it up and actually been transparent. That means discussing publicly what they're negotiating in our name, releasing draft texts of what they're proposing, and then being open for discussion about it all. The USTR points to that last one -- the fact that they'll "talk to anyone" as evidence of transparency. But without the first two things, that last one isn't transparency at all.

While Bloomberg has its own credibility problems these days, I'm somewhat surprised that it has come out so strongly against the way the administration and the USTR in particular, has handled the TPP negotiations. Many large media organizations, and especially a corporate appeasing one like Bloomberg, were mostly expected to do what the NYT did -- repeat the topline claims about what the TPP is supposed to accomplish, and assume that the details don't matter.

The details do matter quite a lot, and the USTR still doesn't think we should be able to see them.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 20 Nov 2013 @ 10:06am

    Goodies for special interest groups

    "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices." --Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776

    I'm a free trader - a real free trade agreement would indeed be great.

    But I don't understand how the New York Times (or anyone) can expect a deal negotiated in secret - BUT with lots of input from "interested parties" - to be anything but a candy bowl for special interests.

    I sympathize with the desire of trade negotiators to avoid confronting economically ignorant protectionist know-nothings (who don't understand what is in their own best interests).

    But the only solution is economic education, not secrecy - because human nature ensures that secrecy will lead directly to conspiracy against the public.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.