Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has long been an outspoken opponent of unfettered free trade, often pointing out what it has done to the American working class as more and more manufacturing jobs are shipped overseas.
In a speech on the floor of the Senate in October of 2011, Sanders noted that in 1970 good paying manufacturing jobs made up 25 percent of jobs in the U.S. and now those jobs only make up 9 percent of the jobs in the country, fewer manufacturing jobs than there were in May of 1941.
Sanders is speaking out again, this time in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman decrying the measures of secrecy being taken in the crafting of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
In the letter, Sanders points out that this pact will involve a full 40 percent of the world economy and yet none of the actual text of the agreement has been made public. This makes it impossible for members of the Senate to properly evaluate the impact of the agreement before voting on ratification since they rely heavily on their staff and advisers in making such decisions.
Sanders observed that corporate influence on the crafting of the pact has been greater than it should be and that the representatives of the people have been shut out of the process:
“It is incomprehensible to me that the leaders of major corporate interests who stand to gain enormous financial benefits from this agreement are actively involved in the writing of the TPP while, at the same time, the elected officials of this country, representing the American people, have little or no knowledge as to what is in it.”
While Senators can see the text of the agreement as it is developed, they are not allowed to take a copy away with them, and staffers who do not have high enough levels of security clearance and who do not work on the Senate Finance Committee or the House Ways and Means Committee are not allowed to see the documents.
Sanders is not the only Senator to express frustration at the lack of information available to them on the TPP, others have expressed similar sentiments about the inability to put their staff to work on analyzing the potential impact it might have, but Bernie is always the most plain-spoken in his criticism.
He demanded that the full text be made available to Congress and that if Froman did not think that he could legally do so, he expected him to explain to him the legal prohibitions that prevented him from complying with the request. In addition he wants Froman to:
“Please also explain why you think it is appropriate that the representatives of the largest financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, media conglomerate and other major corporate interests not only have access to some of these documents, but are also playing a major role in developing many of the key provisions in it. Meanwhile, the people who will suffer the consequences of this treaty have been shut out of this process.”
h/t: Huffington Post