Upholding government transparency and the TPP

Troy Wilkinson

Troy Wilkinson
Troy Wilkinson

In order to have a functioning and healthy democracy, there must be a transparent government. Flying in the face of government transparency is a sneaky agreement that has been in the works called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. It is a free trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 other countries in the Asia-Pacific. Never heard of it? That seems to be the case for most people. Closed doors lie in front of the negotiations for the TPP, which leads to a pitiful amount of transparency for U.S. citizens. The previous free trade agreement has not upheld all of its promises, and with so much secrecy surrounding this new agreement, supporting it would not be a good decision.

The TPP is an expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which was implemented June 1, 1996. NAFTA essentially broke down most tariffs and regulations between the United States, Mexico and Canada. The TPP is looking to expand that to other nations, like Vietnam, Japan, Australia and several others. NAFTA is a failure to many, however. Public Citizen released a report on NAFTA’s disappointments 20 years after they took effect. Many of its promises, like better wages in participating countries and less expensive commodities, have fallen short.

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It’s hard to tell if the TPP will fix the problems of NAFTA, since the public and Congress have seen little of what the TPP actually is. Since negotiations of the agreement are being held in private, few people know all of its contents. The president is asking to fast track the agreement. Fast tracking essentially bypasses Congress’ opportunity to amend any part of the TPP. This, combined with closed-door negotiations, makes the agreement extremely suspicious.

The combination of fast tracking and closed-door negotiations completely sidesteps what a working democracy requires.

People should not only be concerned with the TPP from all the hush-hush secrecy around it, but also for what the multiple leaks say about the agreement. The government does not hide when it is doing something positive. The government is hiding the TPP. From some of the leaks of the agreement, the TPP seems to have a much broader reach than just free trade. Free trade agreements need to establish rules and regulations for all countries that are involved. Agreements and proposals that get accepted into the TPP have much larger implications than just allowing countries to exchange goods in an open market.

There are parts of the TPP that are questionable, such as the Investor State Dispute Settlement. This settlement allows corporations to sue foreign countries based on legislation that would hurt their profits. What does this mean? It means that if a government tried to approve legislation that fined carbon emissions, or required tobacco products to have a warning label, any company whose future profits will be affected can then take action against the government approving those laws.

Another part of the TPP to consider is its inclusion of places like Vietnam, where human rights violations are prevalent. Including countries in a free trade agreement lets entities that ignore human rights to profit more. On another front, there are concerns about the TPP infringing on intellectual property rights, which would lead to less freedom to innovate because of copyright laws.

There are many aspects to the TPP. I suggest that American citizens look into what it is and how the government is going about negotiating it. If the TPP passes without a blink of an eye from the American public, government transparency will have gone ignored.

Collegian Columnist Troy Wilkinson can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @blumitts.