From TPP San Diego/ U.S. Chief Negotiator Calls 135 Members of Congress, Four Senators, Liars!By: Brett Redmayne-Titley
“Is that thing on?” gasped Barbara Weisel, U.S. Chief Negotiator at the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations after having just accused four U.S. senators, and one hundred thirty-two congress persons, of lying to the American public.
This included reference to Sen. Ron Wyden who has, repeatedly, demanded to see a copy of the treaty. Milliseconds after accusing one fourth of the U.S. congress of being dishonest she spied the arch enemy of all political miscreants blinking menacingly next to her; the voice recorder.
Now, clutching this reporters’ voice recorder, she anxiously attempted to shut it off and, or, erase the recording. “You can’t record this”, she continued while still fidgeting with the gadget, obviously aware that she had been caught in several very inflammatory, and by all reports fraudulent, accusations. She is employed by congress. You would not know it to speak with her.
Reaction from Sen. Wyden’s Office 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 Tom Caiazza, Press Secretary for Sen. Wyden in a written response to Op-Ed News inquiries.
Well, sadly, the voice recorder was indeed turned off, which I repeatedly tried to assure Ms. Weisel as she continued her harangue, 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.”
Twenty minutes earlier I had been chatting comfortably with Sierra Club Transportation Chairman, Mike Bullock, about TPP’s lack of transparency in the quiet of the conference room, which was, now, empty at the end of the day’s “Stakeholder Meeting”. Chief Negotiator Barbara Weisel showed up to meet with me along with her handler, Ms. Nkenge Harmon. Very conveniently Ms. Weisel entered our conversation at a time when we were talking about the lack of transparency , regarding American sovereignty, at the actual negotiations. All U.S. Senators and congressmen have been denied access to viewing any draft of the proposed treaty, or attendance at the negotiations. On June 24, 2012 four members of the Senate and on June 29, one hundred thirty- two members of congress, in anticipation of the ,San Diego hosted, 13th round of 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 TPP regulations. These regulations will give multi-national corporations supreme power over US courts, corporations, and the laws and sovereignty of America. (See link: Op-Ed News 6/24/12)
As a “Delegate” at the negotiations U.S. Chief Negotiator Weisel was there to aggressively put forward the soothing TPP rationales designed to stop all fears of global domination. Short, diminutive, and feisty, she was prepared for a fight. Apparently, she was not prepared for the sharp sword of the truth. Or cutting edge technology.
Weisel maintained that the American Public has plenty of representation via the un elected US negotiators, all of whom work directly for the multi-national corporations that have spawned TPP. She did not see this as a conflict of interest. She admitted it was completely up to these few U.S. corporate negotiators to get it right, on behalf of the American people, before the treaty is signed. “Today?!” she suggested would be a good day for a signing ceremony.
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, Ron Kirk. She continued this assertion despite the two Senate and Congressional letters, and Sen. Ron Wyden’s ( D-OR) continued, and very public, requests to see the treaty immediately.
Confronted with a copy of the congressional letter she was asked to explain why these members of congress, all one hundred thirty-two of them, strongly disagreed with her in demanding to see a copy of the treaty for the first time. “Those members of congress are deliberately misleading Americans”, she preened, using the usual conservative condescension to confront my challenge. Asked about the four Senators’ letter, she next confidently responded, “those senators are not being honest.”
Then she saw the voice recorder.
Better than Jack Lemmon in, “Glenn Gary/ Glenn Ross”, never has a look of supreme confidence turned to one of abject terror so quickly. As she fumbled with the device, and finally, grudgingly handed it over, I may not have recorded her words but she was, certainly, re-playing her defamation, of just moments before, in her own mind, calculating damage control.
Fortunately, she was saved by her handler, who informed us it was time for the press conference which Ms. Weisel was to give.
In an immediate rebuke, provided this morning, of Ms. Weisels’, apparently, false allegations Sen. Wyden’s office added,
“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.” (The complete text is provided at the bottom of this story)
At the Press Conference a packed house totaling, by all conservative estimates, six journalists were in attendance. One from Associated Press, a nice couple who publish the Washington Trade Daily, a quiet Asian woman from a D.C. legal journal, and one other who was unidentified, but hogged all the questions like a pro. Where was the media? This being one of the most insidious political stories of the post 9/11 era one would expect a strong media presence. Alas, the American media, including, so sadly, the progressive press was performing their usual vigilant job as stewards of the first amendment. They were missing.
(Above: At a Packed Press Conference Throngs of Concerned Journalists Ask U.S. Chief Negotiator, Barbara Weisel , ( Center) Likeable Questions.)
None of those present asked any questions pertaining to the issues of giving up American sovereignty, or about transparency in the negotiations and access by elected officials. Having already had a nice go round with Ms. Weisel all to myself, I waited my turn to ask her about “The Tribunal.” This is the corporate TPP court that is charged with ruling on disputes between the TPP multi-nationals and the sovereign rights of the American local, state, and federal Govts and our home corporations. Made up of three corporate lawyers TPP would have us believe that any ruling by the Tribunal would be impartial. Any ruling would be binding and supersede the authority of all state, federal and Supreme Court Authority.
Prepared for further evasive maneuvers by Ms. Weisel on these issues of sovereignty I budged in a question between sentences.
“Could you explain the authority and make-up of the Tribunal and why it should have the power to circumvent American sovereignty and its courts…….” I began, ready to duel one more time. It’s that truth thing. It works so well. I had sharpened my sword all week. I was ready for round two. Au Contraire.
“Well, we’ve got to get upstairs”, said her handler standing up and encouraging her charge to do the same. Out the door they marched toward the, presumed, safety of the fourth floor (where the negotiators, only, negotiate) and important business from high above. This, too, was, of course, a fabrication.
Not to be denied, and after waiting a few minutes to discuss our lot I, and the nice couple from the Trade Daily, boldly set foot on the escalator to the promised land. Well, there at the landing was our plucky Chief US Negotiator deep in conversation with our rival from AP. Having now entered the fray we accosted the group in an effort at further questions. Of course we were again denied as Ms. Weisel and her handler disappeared through the nearest set of double doors to the charge of a couple of, specially hired for this event, security guards. Grudgingly, we went down one station to a step below. I figured I was now three for three with Ms. Weisel. She just didn’t know it. Yet.
Such is the transparency of the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty negotiations.
Author’s Note: This is part three of my reporting directly from the TPP negotiations. For much more complete information not repeated in this article please see these two links. Please consider becoming a FAN so you will not miss my next TPP article due out this week. Peace. B.R-T.
Part One: (See link: Op-Ed News 6/24/12)
Part Two: (See link Op-Ed News 6/28/12)
Senator Wyden’s Statement Regarding the Accusations of U.S. Chief Negotiator, Barbara Weisel’s:
“Senator Wyden shares the same concerns expressed by his House colleagues and stands by the facts presented in the House and Senate letters. 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.
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. TPP will impact every facet of the American economy and the everyday lives of each American. That’s why both the public and the Congress need to know what is at stake in these negotiations and have an opportunity to shape them. Unfortunately, neither group has that opportunity now.”
Link To The Letter from 132 Members of Congress to US Trade Rep. Ron Kirk: http://cwafiles.org/national/News/Release/TP_Ltr_Final.pdf
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