Florida Congressman Alan Grayson got a chance to read the Trans-Pacific Partnership recently – without the aid of a recording device, without staff, without anything to take notes with etc. Grayson was so limited during his time with the document because the TPP is deemed “classified”. It came as a surprise to me to learn that a U.S. Congressman has no right to freely access a document that is expected to cement the United States in a trade deal with Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam.
I also learned that while Grayson is treated like a prison inmate when he comes in contact with the TPP, corporate employees and/or their contracted representatives can view the document with a username and password from the comfort of their DC offices. That 2nd fact is something I became aware of as I perused Congressman Wyden’s communications with the Finance committee.
If you had any doubts as to whether the federal government was being overtaken by corporate “persons” this sort of story will clear things right up for you.
Here is Grayson’s brief June 18th statement on the document:
Last month, 10,000 of us submitted comments to the United States Trade Representative (USTR), in which we objected to new so-called free trade agreements. We asked that the government not sell out our democracy to corporate interests.
Because of this pressure, the USTR finally let a member of Congress – little ole me, Alan Grayson – actually see the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is a large, secret trade agreement that is being negotiated with many countries in East Asia and South America.
The TPP is nicknamed “NAFTA on steroids.” Now that I’ve read it, I can see why. I can’t tell you what’s in the agreement, because the U.S. Trade Representative calls it classified. But I can tell you two things about it.
1) There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret.
2) This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.
3) What they can’t afford to tell the American public is that [the rest of this sentence is classified].
(Well, I did promise to tell you only two things about it.)
I will be fighting this agreement with everything I’ve got. And I know you’ll be there every step of the way.
For now, I’ve set up an e-mail address where you can ask me questions on this topic or other topics: email@example.com
I’ll pick a few and answer them by video.
True Blue Democrats. Get ready. We’re coming.
Congressman Alan Grayson
According to Senator Wyden of Oregon, corporations that are free to peruse the terms of the TPP agreement include Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America.
“Unelected corporate officials are given access to negotiation documents by virtue of their positions on U.S. Trade Representative advisory panels. Corporate representatives account for about 500 of the “cleared advisors” on those panels, while representatives of organized labor, environmental and other groups account for about 100 others. These cleared advisers are not permitted to discuss provisions with the press or the public. On Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Michael Froman, Obama’s nominee to head USTR, asking the agency to release negotiation documents to the public. In the letter, Warren noted that the head labor advisory committee had complained of “severe restrictions” USTR had imposed on the panel’s access to negotiation information.”
Senator Wyden [D-Oregon] introduced a bill, S. 3225, to make the TPP available to congress upon request. According to Govtrack.US, the bill was introduced May 23, 2012, was promptly referred to the committee on finance, and it has been gathering dust there ever since.
Here’s video of Congressman Wyden speaking to the Senate Finance Committee in July of 2012. He said that special interest ‘advisors’ on K street in Washington DC can sit in their offices and use a username and password to analyze the TPP agreement while members of congress, “most” members of the Finance Committee, and the public can not.
Co-sponsors to Wyden’s bill are Richard Burr [R-NC], Jeff Merkley [D-OR], and Thomas Coburn [R-OK].
Burr, Richard [R-NC]. They signed onto S.3225 in June of 2012.
Here’s a 20 min. video of Grayson speaking on TPP in Florida in May. The sound is of poor quality and you’ll need to turn it up.
To learn more about TPP, try this piece at Democracy Now where both a video and transcript are available.
The TPP FAQ at Electronic Frontier Foundation is a bit less comprehensive since it focuses on intellectual property and copyright but it’s a bit easier to skim and concludes with online TPP petitions.
There is a great wealth of info. on TPP at TPPinfo.org as well.