American Politics

Secrecy, democracy and the TPP: trade transparency is what the public wants–and needs

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has received heightened attention in this campaign season, including for the lack of transparency in its negotiating process. Renewed focus on the TPP stems from the information that was disclosed when the trade deal’s full text was finally released last November, as provisions with the potential to cause great harm to U.S. labor, the environment, and public health came to light.

Despite this disclosure, the TPP and other trade negotiations remain largely shrouded in secrecy. We wrote about this issue on Labor Day 2015, and one year later, demands for greater transparency for controversial trade deals continue to grow louder.

The TPP is the biggest trade deal in a generation, involving agreements with 12 countries and affecting 40 percent of the world’s economy. Despite its significance, the TPP has been carried out behind doors closed to the public, although representatives from business interests had direct access to the texts and the ability to influence the agreement.

Restrictions were also put on members of Congress: if they wanted to view TPP while it was in negotiation, they were threatened with prosecution if they talked about it.

Without actual documents and with members of Congress throttled, the public was left with what little information could be gleaned from the government, and a few drafts published by Wikileaks. When the full text of the TPP came out in November of last year, it was even worse than expected, according to many groups that were monitoring the secretive trade negotiations. It is clear that from workers’ rights, to access to medicine, to food safety to climate change, the impact of the TPP would be felt in some way by every American.  The release of the trade text has strengthened opposition and has stalled the progression of the TPP, particularly because the election season has some Congressional candidates listening closely to their constituents’ opposition to the trade deal.