Why don't they want us to know what's in the trade deals?
If you've been following our on-going coverage of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), you've probably caught on that one of our biggest complaints about the process is that working people have no idea what's going on. The negotiations are held in secret, documents are secret, the details are secret. Not surprisingly, the same air of secrecy surrounds negotiations over another trade deal, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Trade is massively important to working people. Good trade deals benefit everyone—workers, consumers, owners—but it's hard to make sure that U.S. trade deals are good ones if we don't know what's going into the deals and we don't have a voice in the process. And we're getting tired of negotiations that leave us out.
Last week, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), AFT President Randi Weingarten, Rural Coalition Executive Director Lorette Picciano and AFL-CIO Deputy Chief of Staff Thea Lee called on the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman to make TTIP negotiations transparent and open to the democratic process. These leaders highlighted a letter to Froman signed by more than 75 U.S.-based organizations, including the AFL-CIO and numerous labor unions, and several academics. From the letter:
If the EU is willing to publish its textual proposals, there is no reason why the U.S. cannot immediately release its own textual proposals as well. This significant change from present practice would be a major step toward the release of composite draft texts after each round. It would also help produce trade negotiations guided by the principles of democracy, transparency, and political accountability.
Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, explained the importance of this issue to working people:
The U.S. must show its commitment to creating better trade deals and better lives by immediately releasing their TTIP proposals. Trade agreements negotiated in secret have had a devastating impact upon our families, our jobs, and this nation. Hard-working men and women simply cannot afford anything less than complete transparency when it comes to global trade.
Celeste Drake, AFL-CIO's trade and globalization policy specialist, agreed:
Working families don’t like it when the rules of trade are negotiated in secret rooms we can’t enter. The U.S. and EU can avoid some of the problems the TPP has by bringing TTIP into the light and allowing hardworking Americans a chance to advocate for rules fair to all of us, not just to corporate elites—we call on USTR to make this happen.
Support for increased transparency and democracy in the process wasn't limited to groups representing working people. Many other groups, including organizations as diverse as those advocating for good agriculture policy and organizations that promote responsible science, signed onto the letter, too. Karen Hansen-Kuhn, director of trade, technology and global governance for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, said:
Many of our organizations have been advocating for specific changes to the business as usual approach to free trade since the inception of these talks. Simply listening to and receiving comments isn’t anywhere near enough. USTR should publish the TTIP texts now.
Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, added:
Complex trade agreements like TTIP have far reaching consequences for science-based policies. We need real access to the details to understand and be fully engaged in the process of deciding if the agreement and its provisions are truly in the public interest.
Read the full letter.