Amid Growing Calls To Release TPP Text, NZ Says Transparency Would 'Destroy' Agreement, While USTR Won't Even Talk If Journalists Are Present
from the really-not-getting-it dept
As happened with ACTA, the lack of transparency in the TPP negotiations is emerging as one of the key issues there. Here's a very interesting initiative by politicians from many of the TPP countries:
Senior legislators from Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand and Peru today issued a joint letter seeking the release of the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) before it is signed, to enable detailed scrutiny and public debate. The signatories include political party leaders and legislators who currently or previously held senior political office in their national governments.
On the www.tppmpsfortransparency.org site, there's a list of the politicians who have signed up, and it's interesting to see the variation across the different countries. For example, there's just one politician each from Australia and Mexico, two from Canada, but 21 from Peru and no less than 44 from Malaysia. That gives a rough measure of where resistance to TPP is strongest -- Techdirt noted that Malaysia's support for TPP was wavering as far back as 2012.
Despite these widespread concerns about the lack of transparency, the USTR shows no signs of addressing them. Here's what happened recently in the US:
Vermont lawmakers are refusing to meet a demand from the office of the U.S. trade representative that they conduct secret talks over the impacts of a proposed international trade agreement.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand, politicians are resorting to desperate justifications of secrecy. Here's what Tim Groser, the country's trade minister, had to say on the subject:
An ad hoc group of House members was to have a telephone meeting with officials in the USTR on Thursday about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. But state Rep. Mike Yantachka says that office stated in an email the media should be barred from attending.
the idea that doing all this in the glare of publicity would help the process is naïve, except that my view is that ... actually these people (TPP opponents) are smart," said Groser. "They want this to be done in the full glare of transparency to increase the controversy to the point where it's unmanageable and will destroy the agreement.
The key concern should not be about helping the process at all costs, but making sure that it is in the interests of the public -- here, the New Zealand public. Keeping it secret might well make it easier to sell them down the river, but that's hardly a benefit. And if the "full glare of transparency" does increase the controversy, that suggests there isn't much support for the negotiations in the first place.
In other words, Groser's comments simply confirm what everyone fears: secrecy is being used to push through a bad deal that would never be accepted if negotiated out in the open as happens routinely for other, more democratic discussions.