Author’s Note: This is Part Three of a report direct from the 2012 San Diego TPP negotiations re-published by Intellihub to bring urgent awareness of the threat of TPP to its American and International readers. — B.R-T.
(INTELLIHUB) — “Is that thing on?” gasped, Barbara Weisel, U.S. Chief Negotiator at the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, one millisecond after having just accused four U.S. senators, and one hundred thirty-two US congresspersons- including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) who has, repeatedly, demanded to see a copy of the treaty – of lying to the American public! Now she spied the arch enemy of all political miscreants blinking menacingly on the white tablecloth right next to her: the voice recorder. Snatching-up this reporters’ voice recorder, she anxiously attempted to shut it off and/ or erase the recording. “You can’t record this”, she continued still anxiously fidgeting with the gadget, obviously aware that she had been caught on-tape in several very inflammatory and, by all prior reports, fraudulent accusations. She is employed by the US congress. You would not know it to speak with her.
Twenty minutes earlier I had been chatting comfortably with Sierra Club Transportation Chairman, Mike Bullock, about TPP’s lack of transparency at the negotiations and the lack of media coverage. In the quiet of the Conference Room- now empty at the end of the day’s “Stakeholder Meeting.” I had been waiting for US Chief Negotiator Barbara Weisel, who had been dodging questions while the hall was crowded, to show up to meet with me for some prepared questions. Mike- thankfully- decided to join me with some questions of his own.
Short, diminutive, but feisty, Weisel, like the other delegates, was in attendance to aggressively put forward the soothing TPP rationales designed to quell all fears of global domination. Striding in from the dark-wood double doors at the far end of the hall along with her handler, Ms.Nkenge Harmon, she was prepared for a fight. She was not, however, prepared for the sharp sword of the truth. Nor, cutting edge technology.
Very conveniently Ms. Weisel entered our conversation at a time when we were talking about the lack of transparency regarding American and national sovereignty at the negotiations. So far, all U.S. Senators and congressmen have been denied access to viewing any draft of the proposed treaty or attendance at the negotiations. In reaction, on June 24, 2012, four members of the Senate and next, on June 29, one hundred thirty- two members of congress, in anticipation of the San Diego hosted, 13th round of the TPP negotiations, sent formal letters to U.S. Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, demanding that America’s elected officials be allowed to participate in, and view draft copies of, the proposed, twenty-six chapters of the TPP terms and regulations. These regulations will give multi-national corporations supreme power over US courts, corporations, and the laws and sovereignty of America and eleven other nations. In response, Weisel maintained that the American Public already has plenty of representation via the unelected US negotiators, despite all being employed by the multi-national corporations that have spawned TPP. She did not see this as a conflict of interest. She did, however, admitted it was completely up to only these few U.S. corporate negotiators to get it right on behalf of the American public before the treaty is signed. When would that be? “Today?!” she suggested brightly, would be a good day for a signing ceremony.
Now being pressed on the issue of access by members of Congress, she continued to assert that all members of the Senate and Congress have always had “complete access” to the draft treaty. She repeated several times that “many members of congress have seen the draft of the treaty” and that they had also been continually given updates on the progress and terms of the negotiations by the office of the U.S. Trade representative. Tossing before her both the senatorial and congressional letters that clearly expressed the contrary, the obvious next question was, “why?”
Confronted with the letters baring one-hundred-thirty-six signature that vociferously disagreed with her assertions, she preened, “Those members of congress are deliberately misleading Americans.” Asked about the Senators’ letter, thus the US Chief Negotiator for the United States at TPP, assertively responded, “those senators are not being honest.”
Then… she saw the voice recorder.
Rarely, in the annals of political over-confidence has a look of supreme confidence turned to one of abject terror so quickly. As she fumbled with the device, finally grudgingly handed it over, Weisel was visibly overcome at the realization her recorded words- becoming suddenly distracted while presumably re-playing her defamation of just moments before and already calculating damage control.
Fortunately, she was saved by her handler, Ms. Harmon, who conveniently informed us it was time for the press conference which Ms. Weisel was to give in the room across the hall. I gave Mike Bullock a very-narrowed sideways glance, as both blustered-off. Once out of earshot, the first obvious question to Mike was, “what did we just hear?”
Contacting the Oregon Office of Sen. Ron Wyden for comment, reaction was direct and swift despite the pending 4th of July holiday.
“It is disappointing that a member of the USTR staff would make comments like this in the press and it underlines the concerns of Members of Congress that the negotiators are not taking the interests and input of individual Americans seriously in the negotiating process.” responded Press Secretary, Tom Caiazza, in a written response to this reporters request for comment. Further highlighting Weisel’s defamation, it continued, “Senator Wyden shares the same concerns expressed by his House colleagues and stands by the facts presented in the House and Senate letters. Right now, corporations and interest groups are provided far greater access to, and influence over, international trade negotiations than United States Senators and the public they represent. Unfortunately, neither group [congress and senate] has that opportunity now.”
Well, amusingly, the voice recorder was actually turned off, of which I repeatedly tried to assure Ms. Weisel as she continued her harangue, thus assuming that I had set her up to voluntarily put her foot in her mouth.After contemplating withholding this surreptitious device from me she finally returned it and was off to the “press conference.”
So… today it was shown to America and eleven other nations what the true meaning of “Transparency” is, here at the San Diego TPP negotiations.
Letter From Four U.S.Senators to US Trade Rep, Ron Kirk:
Dear Ambassador Kirk:
We write regarding the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, a regional free trade agreement proposal touted as a model for all future U.S. trade and investment agreements. We are concerned that this process has excluded both Members of Congress and key stakeholders. As a result, groups essential to the success and legitimacy of any agreements are not being provided the opportunity to provide meaningful input on negotiations that have broad policy ramifications.
In the past, most U.S. trade agreement texts have not been made available until after they were signed. As a result, changes were all but impossible. If Congress and the broader public are not informed of the exact terms of the agreement until the conclusion of the process, then the opportunity for meaningful input is lost. The lack of transparency and input makes passage of trade agreements more contentious and controversial.
Extensive consultations with Congress and stakeholders are essential because of the unprecedented scope of these negotiations. Indeed, the negotiations USTR is pursuing will create binding policies on future Congresses in numerous areas where there is significant public interest, including policies related to labor, environment and natural resources, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, intellectual property rights, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, telecommunications and other service sector regulations. In an effort to ensure full public disclosure and consultation, we request that the USTR provide the public with detailed information and consistent updates on what USTR is seeking in the TPP on these matters of broad public interest.
One additional area of concern is copyrights. The significant concerns that bills like Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) met from the public, underscore how unsettling such matters can become without a broad consultative process. The copyright language in the TPP may not mirror the approach of SOPA and PIPA, but due to the secrecy surrounding the TPP there is no guarantee that it will not. Since the terms will only be made public after an agreement is signed, the stakes are too high to exclude important stakeholders and Congress from the negotiation process.
Therefore, we request that you expand the consultation process by broadening the scope of the Industry Trade Advisory Committee (ITAC) for Intellectual Property Rights to include key stakeholders advocating for internet freedom as well as right-holders. A separate committee to address these concerns should be given consideration as well.
We believe these recommendations would demonstrate a commitment to this Administration’s goals of making the federal government more transparent and responsive. We look forward to discussing these issues with you.
Sherrod Brown, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, U.S. Senator
Brett Redmayne-Titley began reporting on-scene in an effort to provide better quality reporting from current events of geo-political, environmental and moral importance. A life-long activist, political commentator and world citizen, he has published over one hundred in-depth articles, many of which have been re-published and translated internationally. He can be reached at: live-on-scene [at] gmx.com