NAFTA. CAFTA. Trade relations with China.
Ohioans have seen first-hand what so-called free trade agreements have done to our state and our economy. Bad deals have closed factories, torn apart families, and devastated communities.
Americans have every right to be skeptical of new trade deals, particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership – the largest trade deal ever negotiated.
We have heard “just trust me” from politicians too many times before. Americans were promised new jobs through foreign trade, but instead found shuttered factories and a flood of imports from China and Mexico. The TPP deal between the U.S. and nearly a dozen Asian-Pacific nations would affect more than 40 percent of our world’s economy. That’s why we need a transparent process that allows Americans and their elected representatives to see the text of the agreement.
Unfortunately, with the TPP we have seen the opposite—unprecedented secrecy.
The President has stated that we should look at the facts before passing judgment on this agreement, yet it’s nearly impossible for policymakers—let alone our constituents or the free press—to know what those facts are. The Administration has made the draft text of the TPP agreement classified, and kept it hidden from the public.
Even seasoned policy advisors with the requisite security clearances can’t review text without being accompanied by a Member of Congress.
And yet, there is one group that has had significant access to the trade deal: the country’s biggest corporations and their lobbyists. These corporate insiders have had the chance not only to read the deal, but to shape it.
The Administration has 28 trade advisory committees on different aspects of the TPP, and 85 percent of the members of these committees are senior corporate executives or industry lobbyists. In fact, many of the advisory committees – including those on chemicals and pharmaceuticals, textiles and clothing, and services and finance – are made up entirely of industry representatives.
It shouldn’t be easier for multinational corporations to get their hands on trade text than for public servants looking out for American workers and American manufacturers. Corporate executives and lobbyists have had access to this deal for years—it’s time the American people had a say.
That’s why I am keeping the pressure on the President and his administration to improve transparency. Until the text of this massive agreement is made accessible to policy advisers looking out for the public interest, I will block a key new appointment to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, which is negotiating this deal.
Congress has to vote to approve any deal, and should be part of the process of crafting it. Too much is at stake with this trade deal for the American people and their elected representatives to be left in the dark.
Sherrod Brown is a U.S. Senator from Ohio.