Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

The Making of the Trans Pacific Partnership – A Need for Transparency

July 16, 2014

  Jake Fox, Economic Justice Intern

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world… This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacra­lized workings of the prevailing economic system… Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.” –Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel

Twenty years after the Passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) President Obama looks to broker a new free trade agreement with eleven different countries. The problem is that the specifics of the agreement have not been made available to the public. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which seeks to remove trade barriers between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States, has been negotiated in privately-held meetings since March of 2008. Specific arrangements made in the TPP meetings are so secret that they have not been made available to members of the U.S Congress.

Due to their fragile nature the specific provisions of trade agreements are usually kept secret until they are in the final process of becoming law. During negotiations governments often consult experts in the private sector for advice on what industries they should try to protect through the new trade agreement. In an effort to develop the TPP, the Obama administration has consulted 600 private sector experts[1].

The problem with government’s tendency to include business interests during trade policy negotiations is that it offers the private sector undeserved access and leverage in the policy making process. This inequitable access to the policy making process allows individuals in the private sector to act in the best interest of their industry. More often than not trade agreements are tainted by corporate involvement; not having an obligation to come up with policy that helps the maximum amount of people but an obligation to further their financial gains.