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Editorial: More transparency needed on trade partnership

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MAY 04, 2015 5:00 AM

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Democratic presidential-nomination candidate Hillary Clinton is now facing pressure to reveal her stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and whether President Obama should authorize such a deal.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed trade agreement between the United States and 11 countries that will, hopefully, “boost U.S. economic growth, support American jobs, and grow made-in-America exports to some of the most dynamic and fastest growing countries in the world.”

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has publicly extended a hand to Clinton for help moving the trade legislation through Congress.

Despite the grand ambitions of this daunting trade agreement, the implementation of it has faced its a share of skepticism and hesitancy to put it into action.

A contributing factor to this reluctance could be the generally private nature of the negotiations and the lack of definitive knowledge about what such a large-scale trade agreement will entail. Given that the exact details of this large trade-agreement are not common knowledge, it is not surprising that giving the president the ability to “fast track” this kind of negotiation has been widely debated.   

The issue of trade among lawmakers is somewhat of an anomaly, because it an issue that is usually strongly supported by Republicans and frowned upon by Democrats. Those who follow the path of legislation are more accustomed to seeing Democrat-pushed agendas halted by a reticent Republican majority. This is not the case, however, with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as Boehner is going so far as to ask a presidential candidate on the other side of the aisle to assist in this matter.

To get this agreement through the Senate, the Republicans would need far more backing from the Democratic Party than they currently have.

Whether Clinton should announce her position on the trade agreement is not the primary issue. Given the scope of this agreement and its potential to dramatically alter the lives of everyday Americans, the public should be more informed as to what they are giving the president the right to authorize. The public has the right to peek behind the curtain. Transparency should be a given, not a caveat.

While the partnership may open new avenues of trade and bolster the global economy, the manner in which it is being discussed perpetuates a way of legislative process that alienates those who will be most affected. Furthermore, some aspects of the agreement have come under fire, with language in leaked early drafts of the proposal indicating a major expansion in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act without any open discussion on the issue.

Our lawmakers are trusted to make decisions on our behalf, but that does not exempt them from informing us about those decisions.

The goal of legislation should be to serve the public interest and ultimately better people’s lives. When the legislative process becomes detached from the people it was designed to serve, it calls into question whether the process still serves its purpose.

Before decisions are made on the trade agreement or the president’s ability to authorize it, the public should take a moment to think on whether this method of decision-making and governance is one we want to encourage and take a look at the merits of the agreement itself.         


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