What Worries Me After Reading Obama's Secret Trade Deal

Much is kept secret from those being asked to advise on it: Michael Wessel
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2015 5:13 PM CDT
What Worries Me After Reading Obama's Secret Trade Deal
President Barack Obama smiles after speaking at the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, Monday, May 18, 2015, in Camden, N.J.   (Lori M. Nichols/South Jersey Times via AP)

It's hard to publicly criticize a trade deal when revealing details of said deal could land you in jail. But Michael Wessel, a designated "cleared adviser" who has read President Obama's proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, writes at Politico that critics such as Elizabeth Warren are right to be concerned. Though he notes there are "many failings" within the secret document, his biggest concern is how the Obama administration isn't providing full access to advisers such as himself. "Advisers are almost flying blind," writes Wessel, who also worked on the NAFTA deal. "Bill Clinton didn't operate like this." Wessel says about 600 advisers, most of them representing business interests, have access only to initial proposals and "carefully edited summaries."

In short, advisers "do not have access to all the materials that a reasonable person would need to do the job." That's true for a range of pivotal issues, including arcane-sounding ones about "rules of origin" that dictate what percentage of a product must be made within TPP countries to be eligible for duty-free handling. In fact, "questions pervade virtually every chapter of the proposed agreement, including labor and the environment, investor-state, intellectual property, and others," Wessel says. After an initial blow last week, the Senate has agreed to debate the "fast track" bill, the Guardian reports, but until the questions are addressed, "Congress should refuse to pass fast track trade negotiating authority," Wessel writes. Click for his full piece. (Read more Trans-Pacific Partnership stories.)

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