While the complications and debate surrounding the Affordable Care Act have been dominating the news for the last several weeks, I find it alarming that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) hasn’t been getting more attention. In fact, it is probable that the majority of Americans have not even heard of the TPP, although it will likely affect every one of us.
The TPP is a multi-national trade agreement between the United States and Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Although its negotiations have been going on for five years, the content of these meetings have been kept from the public and the majority of the government. Other than President Obama and others in the executive branch, only a few members of Congress have had (limited) access to the agreement’s contents.
A TPP meeting was held in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the Grand America over the weekend. Some are calling it the most secretive meeting to date.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) defines the TPP as an agreement that “will enhance trade and investment among the TPP partner countries, promote innovation, economic growth and development, and support the creation and retention of jobs.” In reality, 24 of the 29 chapters within the agreement would set new regulations on a variety of non-trade matters, such as food safety, internet freedom, medicine costs, job off-shoring, financial regulation, and more.
Last week, WikiLeaks published a classified TPP chapter regarding intellectual property rights. WikiLeaks describes the chapter as “perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP, due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents.”
While WikiLeaks has made some previously classified content of the TPP public, it has only caused the discussions to become more private and secretive. According to TheCitizensTrade.org, the meeting in Salt Lake City is “the first major round of TPP talks in years without any formal stakeholder process allowing civil society and the public at large to present their views to negotiators.” The fact that Wikileaks was the organization to reveal this new information to the American public is exceptionally troubling. A multi-national agreement involving and affecting Americans should not be kept secret from them.
Even more troubling is that not even members of Congress, who Americans elected to represent their interests, are involved in the development of the TPP. Rather, there are more than 600 corporate advisors who have been involved in the negotiations of the TPP text. Other than these advisors, the majority of Congress, the press, and American citizens have had no access or truthful insight into what is being discussed behind closed TPP doors.
The undemocratic and secretive methods of the Trans-Pacific Partnership must be made better known to the American public. Its discussions must become more, if not entirely, transparent. Americans deserve to know what commitments are being made on their behalf, how these agreements will affect their daily lives, and especially American jobs and economic stability.
So how can you help? Contact your Utah representatives. Ask them to take action and become more involved with publicizing and uncovering the secrecy of the TPP. And spread the word, so more Americans will know about the TPP, and more pressure will be put on our government to make the negotiations more public, ethical and democratic.