I'm hearing a lot of complaints these days about trade negotiations not being transparent. Here are some Global Trade Watch folks writing in the NY Times:
THE Obama administration has often stated its commitment to open government. So why is it keeping such tight wraps on the contents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the most significant international commercial agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995?
And here's a Washington Post columnist:
What’s in the [TPP] isn’t clear, as the administration has clamped a tight lid on the proceedings.
I feel like I've addressed this issue before. How much transparency can we expect on these issues? Don't trade negotiators have to keep some of their objectives secret, in order to be able to negotiate successfully? And isn't this all much more transparent than what happens in the U.S. Congress (and probably other legislative bodies as well)?
Having said that, I think there is a more fundamental criticism lurking underneath the talk of secrecy: Governments haven't really engaged with the people about many of the issues that are covered in trade agreements. There is vague talk about the benefits of trade, but not much detail about what is actually in trade agreements and what the impact will be. I think that's what Global Trade Watch is getting at when it says:
Remember the debate in January 2012 over the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have imposed harsh penalties for even the most minor and inadvertent infraction of a company’s copyright? The ensuing uproar derailed the proposal. But now, the very corporations behind SOPA are at it again, hoping to reincarnate its terms within the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s sweeping proposed copyright provisions.
If copyright policy is going to be part of trade agreements, someone is going to have to explain why the copyright policy being pursued makes sense. My sense is that many people are not convinced that it does.