The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the latest political issue to be caught in the dragnet of WikiLeaks’ campaign against governmental secrecy. The controversial online whistleblower alleges that it obtained a copy of the free trade agreement’s section on environmental protections which, according to the WikiLeaks’ founder, demonstrates that its provisions are unenforceable.
The section in question apparently accounts for how the twelve participating nations are negotiating the question of environmental protection. According to Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, in stark contrast to those portions of the agreement devoted to agriculture, investment and intellectual property, the section on the environment fails to describe any clear mechanisms to compel member countries to abide by the posited rules. Assange lambasted the section, claiming that the omission of an enforcement plan reduces it to “media sugar water” and “a toothless public relations exercise.”
TPP discussions have persistently drawn criticism for its lack of transparency. Last September, more than sixty activists have set up camp outside the office of Michael Froman, the U.S. Trade Representative, to protest the TPP. Groups like Public Citizen and the Communication Worker’s for America angrily criticized the TPP’s possible impact on employment in the U.S. and complained of a lack of transparency regarding the negotiation process. Melinda St. Louis, international campaign director for Public Citizen, declaimed, “Regulating Wall Street is what we need. It’s time to flush the TPP. Protecting workers is what we need. It’s time to flush the TPP.”
Kenneth Peres, chief economist for the Communication Worker’s For America, added to the pile of criticism. He said, “It’s going to erode our wages, just like other free trade pacts have.”
WikiLeaks somehow managed to get ahold of the draft of the environmental section at the Salt Lake City summit and began publishing excerpts shortly thereafter. The New York Times has reported that, if the WikiLeaks allegations are true, it would be in violation of the 2007 “May 10 Agreement,” signed into law by then-President George W. Bush, which requires all free trade agreements the U.S. participates in to include binding environmental strictures.
Jennifer Haverkamp, former head of the U.S. Trade Representatives Environmental Office, remarked that in trade agreements that comprise so many nations, the U.S needs to be a model for others to follow. She said, “Bilateral negotiations are a very different thing. Here, if the U.S. is the only one pushing for this, it’s a real uphill battle to get others to agree if they don’t like it.”
The TPP negotiations include the U.S., Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, Peru, Brunei, New Zealand, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Canada and Japan.