One of the worst kept, and at the same time best kept, secrets in Washington over the last few years has been the negotiations over the Trans Pacific Partnership, commonly referred to as TPP. If you’ve been following what we discuss, the TPP should be very familiar to you by now; it’s one of our favorite subjects to write about.We’ve discussed ad nauseum the secrecy that the Obama administration has enshrouded the negotiations with. However, on Monday The Huffington Post ran a story that puts all the other attempts at hiding the details of the TPP from the public to shame. It goes like this:
“On Wednesday, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman are scheduled to brief Democrats on one of the most hotly contested aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership: granting foreign corporations the power to challenge domestic laws and regulations before an international arbitration panel.”
In case you aren’t familiar with this section of the TPP, it’s what’s called Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS. ISDS has been a part of US trade agreements ever since 1993 and the signing into law of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and it’s been used more and more by corporations wishing to bypass the laws within a country they’re doing business with.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote an excellent op ed about the dangers of ISDS that was published in the Washington Post a couple weeks ago. We’ll let Elizabeth explain why this is bad:
“ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.”
So the White House is briefing Democrats on ISDS, which sounds good on the surface. After all, our representatives should know what’s in the TPP. However, there’s one problem; any member of Congress who shares information with the public about this briefing can be prosecuted for a crime under the guise of “national security.” The other TPP briefings that day are not classified.
Representative Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said: “I’m not happy about it. It is part of a multi-year campaign of deception and destruction. Why do we classify information? It’s to keep sensitive information out of the hands of foreign governments. In this case, foreign governments already have this information. They’re the people the administration is negotiating with. The only purpose of classifying this information is to keep it from the American people.”
The last time we checked, our representatives are elected by us to represent the will of the people and to enact laws that protect the constitution as well as the safety and sanctity of our nation. To violate the trust We the People have put in those elected officials by threatening them with prosecution for things that are, in actuality, NOT issues of national security, is a betrayal of everything America stands for. Or at least what it used to stand for.
We have to agree with Congressman Grayson. The only reason to classify this briefing is because the public would be justifiably angry about it if the contents were to be made public. Once again, we have to ask who is our government working for? The multinational corporations or We the People? From what we see, the answer isn’t the one we’d want.
Editorial note; this article was a joint collaboration between ew and MNgranny.