In an interview with Chris Matthews which aired Tuesday night, President Obama said that Senator Elizabeth Warren was wrong to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP):
“I love Elizabeth. We’re allies on a whole host of issues. But she’s wrong on this. I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the middle class. And when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts they are wrong.”
This is an interesting line for President Obama to take, considering that the facts of what is included in the TPP currently are classified. So the skepticism shown by lawmakers, much less ordinary citizens, hinges on trusting what is included in the deal–not the facts which Obama flippantly refers to.
National security secrecy may be appropriate to protect us from our enemies; it should not be used to protect our politicians from us. For an administration that paints itself as dedicated to transparency and public input, the insistence on extensive secrecy in trade is disappointing and disingenuous. And the secrecy of trade negotiations does not just hide information from the public. It creates a funnel where powerful interests congregate, absent the checks, balances and necessary hurdles of the democratic process.
Free-trade agreements are not just about imports, tariffs or overseas jobs. Agreements bring complex national regulatory systems together, such as intellectual property law, with implications for free speech, privacy and public health.
The level of secrecy employed by the Office of the United States Trade Representative is not typical of how most international agreements are negotiated. It’s not even how our negotiating partners say they want to operate. Yet it is the way that the Obama administration handles trade deals, from a failed anti-counterfeiting agreement more than two years ago to the TPP today. The trade representative’s office keeps trade documents secret as national security information, claiming that negotiating documents — including work produced by United States officials — are “foreign government information.”
So President Obama finds himself in the precarious position of trying to sell the American Public on the virtues of the TPP solely on his word that the deal is being done in their best interest. In fact, this sales job perfectly mirrors the effort to gin up support for the Iran Deal.
On a trip to Cleveland last month, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) accompanied the president on Air Force One. The trade deal “comes across badly,” Brown said. Obama is “talking about it as part of national security, not part of his economic message, because it doesn’t work.”
[CNN][New York Times][Washington Post]