« A Climate Skeptic Converted | Main | Republican Coal Bill: Just Another Attack on Public Health Protections »

September 18, 2012

Leesburg Leaves Trade Questions Unanswered

I’ve just returned from another round of Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact negotiations, held in Leesburg, Virginia. This 14th round was closer to home in Washington, D.C., but the meeting place – the Lansdowne Resort – was a world apart from the bustling capital city.

Isolated by 45 holes of championship golf and powdered with tight security, the resort was an ideal location for government trade negotiators hoping to write trade laws in secrecy.

TPP rally Leesburg sign

Transparency. I’ve asked for it before, Members of Congress have echoed the calls, and even Sierra Club’s president called the lack of openness an “affront to democracy.” Simply put, governments shouldn’t be hashing out massive agreements that would impact every aspect of our lives in the shadows.

In the ten days of negotiations, the only opportunities for public input were short presentations and tabling sessions from registered stakeholders, which overlapped inconveniently. Additionally, a large conference room held representatives from each negotiating nation and a couple hundred stakeholders for a briefing of watered-down non-answers to stakeholders’ questions about the pact.

For example, when Sierra Club president Allison Chin asked the U.S. trade negotiator how they have proceeded in making the environment chapter strong and enforceable, the answer was along the lines of, “That is a long and complex chapter that will build on the environment chapters of existing free trade agreements. We’ll see what comes out of this round of negotiations.”

Photo (8)
Sierra Club President Allison Chin takes advantage of the stakeholders' briefing.

Still, these feeble attempts at public inclusion really have no value when we “stakeholders”—narrowly defined as those who register with U.S. Trade Representative—haven’t even seen the text that we’re commenting on. Members of the media weren’t allowed in the stakeholder’s briefing and face similar challenges to access and information that limit their ability to report.

It’s simple: Let us see the text. This really is not a revolutionary request in the trade world. In fact, most trade organizations publish draft texts of their agreements these days.

But, despite the logistical obstacles, I was proud that over 100 stakeholders from environmental, labor, family farm, consumer rights, and other fair trade allies came out on September 9th to demand that U.S. Trade Representative bring the trade pact’s negotiations out of the shadows and protect people and the environment.

I was struck by their determination and dedication as they tried to unearth the answer to the question on everyone’s mind: “what are the negotiators trying to hide?

The next round of negotiations will take place outside of the U.S., but we must make sure that our representatives board the plane with the fundamental principles of our democracy in mind. They need to bring the negotiations into the light of day where they belong.

IMG_4735

--Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club Labor and Trade Program 

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b96069e2017d3c23c3b2970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Leesburg Leaves Trade Questions Unanswered:


User comments or postings reflect the opinions of the responsible contributor only, and do not reflect the viewpoint of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any posting. The Sierra Club accepts no obligation to review every posting, but reserves the right (but not the obligation) to delete postings that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

Up to Top

Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Rss Feed



Sierra Club Main | Contact Us | Terms and Conditions of Use | Privacy Policy/Your California Privacy Rights | Website Help

Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2013 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.