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):
  1. Quality suffers when there is no free and open debate.
  2. "Exporting U.S. law" is hard and can lead to unintended consequences.
  3. 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.

Filed Under: colleen chien, democracy, obama administration, quentin palfrey, secrecy, tpp, trade, transparency, ttip, ustr


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2016 @ 3:49pm

    They admit that the USTR's standard answer -- that trade negotiations rely on secrecy, and you don't want to give up an advantage

    Which is antithetical to free trade, as it is one country trying to gain an advantage over another.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 9 Mar 2016 @ 9:53am

      Re:

      Which is antithetical to free trade, as it is one country trying to gain an advantage over another.

      That's what they want you to believe. But this is rather about the corporations of one country being allowed to screw the populace of another just as hard as the corporations of the other country are allowed to screw the ones of the first.

      So it's a win of "free trade" for both countries. The question is just the balance of the winnings.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2016 @ 4:07pm

    Semi-related... why hasn't TD reported on Eric Schmidt making Google/Alphabet's links to the government official?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2016 @ 4:21pm

    He should just be transparent about the fact that these 'trade deals' are only intended for corporate interests with no regard for the public interest. It's not like we don't already know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2016 @ 4:26pm

    I have come to the opinion that little in government today actually benefits the citizenry. Nor does it appear I am the only one with this idea. Both parties have failed to govern for the people, instead picking corporate over the nation's welfare at nearly all points.

    Our economy (this trade deal is supposed to address) is in shambles as a result.

    If you don't believe my point about the citizenry then take a quick look at this voter revolt. The monied interests who wish to maintain power are beside themselves that their sponsored horses aren't doing all that well in the race. I've heard a many say that if Hillary gets tbe nomination they will vote for Trump for spite.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 8 Mar 2016 @ 4:43pm

    Now we know why they are "former" Tech Advisors...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2016 @ 5:05pm

    Why go to another country, only to find

    a Starbucks on one corner, a MacDonald's on the next,
    CNN on the TV in the hotel, and people tying up
    traffic taking selfies with their iPhones.

    We've homogenized the world so much -- that we might
    as well stay home.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 9 Mar 2016 @ 9:34am

      Re: Why go to another country, only to find

      We've homogenized the world so much -- that we might
      as well stay home.


      Suit yourself, but that sounds like the viewpoint of someone who has never actually left North America.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2016 @ 5:30pm

    Dday

    What time does the revolution start? I want to lay in a stock of popcorn, this should be good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2016 @ 5:39pm

    The most opaque administration in history?

    More of the hope and change I guess. Maybe Hillary will save us?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 9 Mar 2016 @ 6:14am

      Re: The most opaque administration in history?

      Are we talking about the same Hillary here? The one who even keeps her election promises secret?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Cal, 8 Mar 2016 @ 6:02pm

    Trade Opinions

    "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)... Trade policy should reflect our democratic ideals"

    Not one person who has "advised" those who serve wtihin our government, or served within it themselves should be calling it a "democracy" or refer to "our democratic..." anything.

    The problem they have, and most Americans have is that America is NOT a "democracy", nor has she ever been one, nor will she ever be one as long as I and others live. America is a Constitutional Republic, everything those that serve within our government must do, are forbidden to do, and are ALLOWED to do only under certain circumstances, etc is all in writing within the US Constitution and each state Constitution. Novel idea, huh?

    Those are the contracts backed by those that serve at ALL levels of government required Oath that binds them to PERSONALLY support and defend the US Constitution, NOT any person who serves within our governments.

    So if people who "advise" those who serve within our government, and those that actually serve within it do not understand that we are NOT a democracy and have, quite possibly, not even read the contract they are LAWFULLY oathbound to might be the problem we are having within our nation.

    Worse is that the American people themselves have allowed the dumbing down of their knowledge of what our government is. They let those that SERVE WITHIN our government now tell us what the government OUR ancestors created is, what they can do or not do, and actually commit *Terrorism and Treason against the American people.

    Ignorance is NOT bliss, as those who lived in Germany (Hitler), Russia (Stalin/Lenin, etc), China, etc learned to their grief

    *28 C.F.R. Section 0.85 Terrorism is defined as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”.

    Alexander Hamilton: “We are a Republican Government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.”

    George Washington: "The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."

    James Madison, Federalist 39: "Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution." (It was established.)

    Thomas Jefferson: “When once a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption and restoring its lost principles; every other correction is either useless or a new evil.”

    Abraham Lincoln: “We, the people, are the rightful masters of both congress and the courts - not to overthrow the constitution, but to overthrow men who pervert the Constitution”

    Benjamin Franklin: “In free governments the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors and sovereigns. For the former, therefore, to return among the latter was not to degrade but to promote them.”

    Thomas Jefferson to Wilson Nicholas: “Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.”

    James Madison: “Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.”

    Thomas Jefferson: “…To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions is a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so. They have with others the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps… The Constitution has erected no such tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruption of time and party, its members would become despots….”

    Patrick Henry: “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 8 Mar 2016 @ 8:24pm

      Re: America is NOT a "democracy"

      So was G W Bush lying when he was going on about spreading democracy?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 9 Mar 2016 @ 2:44am

      Re: Trade Opinions

      The colloquial usage of the term democracy to describe what is theoretically a democratic republic is completely irrelevant to this and everything else you "it's not a democracy" types harp on about.

      When someone makes the never-heard claim that every bit of government business should be handled by a direct vote of all constituents, go ahead and explain this to them, it may have some use then.

      It is not and never has been a problem of misunderstanding in any regard.

      Democracy has been the key point in how governments are or were theoretically or actually in some cases granted the power to govern, as opposed to republics and other forms of government formed by other means. And that is one of the problems: That the democratic part of the process has been subverted, whther by powered authoritarian interests of by the electorate itself.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 9 Mar 2016 @ 9:36am

      Re: Trade Opinions

      It depends on the definition of democracy you're using. By some perfectly valid definitions, the US is indeed a democracy. There's no need to write a screed every time someone uses one of those definitions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 9 Mar 2016 @ 2:25am

    There is an excellent reason for secrecy

    And that reason has been given by Linux Torvalds: "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow".

    The negotiators do not represent the people but industry interests but have to rely on representatives giving the final go-ahead.

    So the contracts are full of easter eggs.

    It's the business equivalent of the obfuscated C programming contest. We even had some instances where "clarifications" were applied after getting the go-ahead that fundamentally changed the meaning of the text.

    There are multiple parties to the treaty which gives the appearance of balanced interests: it's akin to European and American foxes trying to standardize hen house accessibility.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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