Warren: Obama Keeping Trade Deal Secret Because ‘The Public Would Oppose It’

Thursday on the senate floor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)  introduced a bill that would give the public 60 days to review the details of President Obama’s  Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal before Congress votes.

Partial transcript as follows:

“In the past few weeks the public has heard a lot about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal the U.S. is negotiating with 11 other countries. The public has heard from supporters that it is the most progressive trade deal in history, a deal that will benefit working families and small businesses. And they’ve heard it will only tilt the field in favor of multinational corporations and leave workers and everyone else behind. The public has heard a lot but in all that time they’ve never actually seen the deal itself. In fact, the press hasn’t seen the deal, economists haven’t seen the deal, legal experts haven’t seen the deal, most everyone in America hasn’t seen the deal. Why? because the administration has classified the deal making it illegal for any of those people to read it.

“Now members of congress, as Senator Mansion said, can read it so long as they go into a secret room and don’t leave with any notes. but even members of congress are prohibited from talking about the details in public or discussing the details with the people that they were sent to Washington to represent. And yet in the next day or two the senate is scheduled to vote on whether to grease the skids to make that secret trade deal, the TPP the law of the land. This isn’t how democracy is supposed to work. One of our fundamental principles of representative government is transparency. Our government is supposed to keep things secret from the people only if it has a really, really good reason to do so.

“So why is this trade deal a secret? I just want to go over the answers that I’ve heard so far, the reasons. Some say the administration can’t release the deal because the deal isn’t finished yet. Okay, so maybe there are some unresolved issues. But everyone agrees that the deal is nearly complete. It’s close enough to being done that its supporters can confidently claim that it is the most progressive trade deal in history. If you’re sure that’s right, then show it to us. If some parts aren’t finished, then show us the parts that are finished. Don’t keep every single word of the deal classified.

“Now others say releasing the text now would be tipping our hand in continuing negotiations. But that doesn’t make any sense either. Our government has already shared the details of our positions with the other TPP countries, and those countries have shared details with us. That’s how negotiations work. Publicly releasing what our negotiating partners have already seen couldn’t possibly undermine our negotiations because, by definition, our negotiating partners have already seen it.

“Here’s another argument I’ve heard, that releasing the text of an unfinished international agreement simply isn’t done. It’s a breach of protocol. Well, that’s not true either. As Senator Manchin pointed out, in 2001, President George W. Bush publicly released the scrubbed bracketed text of the free trade agreement of the Americas several months before seeking fast-track authority for that agreement. At the time his U.S. trade representative said that releasing the text — quote — ‘would increase public awareness and support for the trade deal.’ And guess what? congress still approved that fast-track deal. of course it can be done. It has been done, and it should be done.

“Still others say that publicly releasing the text would endanger state secrets. Wow, but this agreement is not about nuclear weapons programs or military operations. There isn’t any national security information in this deal. This deal is about things like copyright rules and labor standards. And I know the president doesn’t think there’s any sensitive national security information in the deal. That’s why he’s already committed to publicly release the entire text. He just won’t do it until after congress has already voted to to grease the skids to make it law.

“And that brings us to the last justification, that we should all be satisfied that the administration will release the text of the deal a few months before congress has to vote on whether to approve it. But by then congress would have lost the ability to amend the deal, to stop the deal or to slow it down. In other words, by the time you, the American public, can read the deal, your elected representatives will have lost the ability to use your input to help shape that deal. That sounds like a lousy arrangement to me.

“So if there are no good reasons for secrecy here, that leaves only a bad reason. And believe it or not, it’s a reason I’ve heard people give multiple times. We should keep the deal secret because if the details were made public now, the public would oppose it. Well, that’s how our democracy is supposed to work. If the TPP is mostly done and the public wouldn’t support it if they could see it, then it shouldn’t become the law.

“That’s why I’ve introduced a simple bill with my friend from West Virginia, Senator Manchin. This bill would require the president to publicly release the scrubbed bracketed text of a trade deal at least 60 days before congress votes on any fast-track for that deal. That would give the public, the experts, the press an opportunity to review the deal. It would allow for some honest public debate, and it would give congress a chance to actually step in and block any special deems and giveaways that are being proposed as part of this trade deal before congress decides whether to grease the skids to make that deal the law. if this trade deal is so great, if it will work so well for America’s workers and small businesses, then make it public. We should pass this bill today and give the American people some time to read the deal before we tie ourselves to fast-track. whether you support fast-track or oppose it, whether you support TPP or oppose it. We should all agree at that we should have a robust, informed debate on something that is this important. Anything less is a disservice to the people who sent us here to work for them.”

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN


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