If you haven’t heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), it’s time to take a minute and learn what it’s all about.
President Obama’s signature trade initiative, the TTP would join 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific region in a formal trade agreement. These include the US, Australia, Canada, Chili, Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam; with the possibility of more to join in the future such as South Korea, Taiwan, Columbia, Indonesia, and India.
Everyone’s abuzz with the TPP, especially with the Senate not passing the initial vote on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Although the Senate’s Democrats typically support Obama, he struggled to swing their vote for the TPP. Needing 60 of 100 votes to move on to the House of Representatives, the President only received 42 votes in favor.
At the forefront of the Democrats opposition is that the trade deal has been done in secrecy. And while some members of Congress have been able to view the bill (in private, with no electronics, and no pen and paper), other than what has become known through WikiLeaks, neither the press nor the public has had any access to the document.
Obama and supporters of the bill have made reasonable excuses for the secrecy, such as the need to keep things confidential to improve trust with other nations, yet the details of the TPP have been kept much more secret than trade deals in the past. And lets face it folks, the government is hard enough to trust, let alone when they go to such means to keep things private.
If everything is legitimate and upfront, why not let people see it? Why not let phones and notepads in the room with the documents so that people can research and learn more? I’ll tell you why, because secrets are shady. And when secrets are involved, it’s typically because people have something they want to hide.
As an American, I feel strongly about voting and believe in the old adage “If you don’t vote, don’t bitch.” But I also don’t want people voting just for the sake of voting. I want them to be informed. To know what they’re voting on, instead of hitting buttons like they’re playing a touch screen game at the local bar. I expect the informed citizen to research, understand, and know what’s going on.
And if we expect this of each other, as citizens, then we sure as hell should expect this of those elected officials who represent us. How is it possible to vote for a bill without being given the opportunity to examine it? With nearly 30 chapters, the TPP should take weeks to digest and interpret, not a 10 minute quick glance in a room by yourself. And with the fast-track voting process Obama was hoping for, no amendments could be made, as it was simply a pass or fail vote. That means that the 100 senators that voted, not one was given the opportunity to fully study the bill and either agree or disagree with parts of it. Not one. Now, what’s that say for the difference between a democracy and a bureaucracy?
One thing about the TPP is that it focuses on much more than just trade. When Nafta was passed during the Clinton administration, there were secrets and there was disagreements, but not like this. And one of the reasons is that things have changed a lot since the early ’90s. Trade is different today. We’ve got everything from online education to e-commerce to full-blown internet business and the bill tries to handle all of this and more.
The TPP is expected to have an impact on more than just tariffs and trade. It can impact copyright protections, labor and environment regulations, exchange of data across borders, allow for the manipulation of currency, and can give certain corporations the ability to sue countries with specific regulations and challenge court rulings.
And there Obama sits, expecting the Senate to vote and pass the trade bill without ever getting the chance to fully examine it. Hell, they shouldn’t just have blocked it. They should have refused to vote on it.
What are your thoughts about the TPP and the Senate’s shut down of the bill? Do you think it’s ethical for them to vote, when they haven’t had the opportunity to see the bill? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments. We want to know what you think.