While Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is refusing to reveal her position on the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, other former State Department officials are actively supporting the agreement. They’re just not bothering to reveal their conflicts of interest.
More than 30 former State Department officials, envoys, military officers and White House national security advisers who served under both Republican and Democratic presidents signed a letter last month calling the trade agreement “a defining test for American political and economic leadership in the Asia-Pacific region” and urging members of Congress to give President Obama “fast-track” authority to speed its passage.
Though the officials identified themselves in the letter using their prior government titles, many have since passed through the revolving door and now work at consulting firms focused on helping multinationals with interests in East Asia. Six of those with non-disclosed involvement in ventures that focus heavily on Pacific Rim trade served under Secretary Clinton.
The congressional letter was organized, in part, by Kurt Campbell, a former top aide to Clinton. Campbell served from 2009 until 2013 as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Metadata from the letter identifies the author of the document as Yong Kwon, an analyst with the Asia Group, a consulting firm founded by Campbell within days of leaving the State Department in February 2013.
Nirav Patel, the COO of the Asia Group and a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs under Clinton, also signed the letter.
Other signatories include:
- Andrew Shapiro, former United States assistant secretary of state, who is now managing director of Beacon Global Strategies. The firm markets Shapiro as having “made key contributions to the U.S. pivot to Asia by leading an increase in military sales and transfers to U.S. partners including Taiwan, Japan, and Indonesia.”
- Jeffrey Bader, a National Security Council staffer under President Obama, who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute; “president and sole proprietor of Jeffrey Bader LLC, which provides assistance to companies with interests in Asia”; and “a member of the board of directors of HSBC North America Holdings, Inc.”
- David Huebner, former U.S. ambassador to New Zealand under President Obama, who is a partner with Arnold and Porter’s international arbitration, public international law and national security practices.
- John Roos, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan under President Obama, who is a senior advisor for Centerview Partners, “an international investment banking advisory practice specializing in independent advice and other client services.”
- Stanley Roth, assistant secretary of state during President Clinton’s second term, who has been Boeing’s vice president of international government relations since 2006.
- Stapleton Roy, a former assistant Secretary of State for intelligence and research under Bill Clinton, who is now a member of Kissinger Associates, the consulting firm founded by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
- Susan Shirk, deputy assistant secretary of state under President Clinton, who is now senior director of Albright Stoneridge, a “strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm” founded by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
- Tom Schieffer, former ambassador to Australia and Japan, who “founded and remains active in Envoy International LLC, which largely does consulting work on international affairs for clients on both sides of the Pacific.”
- Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state under George W. Bush, who founded Armitage International, a firm that offers “multinational clients with critical support in the areas of international business development, strategic planning, and problem-solving.”
- Randall Schriver, former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs under Bush, who is now a founding partner of Armitage International.
In response to a request for comment about the letter, former Ambassador Tom Schieffer said via email that “none of my clients has taken a position on the TPP.”
Frank Lavin, a signatory to the letter and former undersecretary of commerce for international trade during President George W. Bush’s second term, said Campbell helped organize the lobby effort. Asked why the officials signed the letter with their former government titles alone, and not their current titles, Lavin said, “the letter was a communication on behalf of former government officials, so we should not find it surprising that we were all identified according to our past government position.” Lavin is the CEO and founder of Export Now, a firm that bills itself as “the only complete solution for selling online in China, the world’s largest e-commerce market.”
“There were two letters, one for Asia hands and organized by Kurt Campbell, and one for former Commerce Department people, organized by Chris Padilla,” Lavin said. Padilla, now a chief IBM lobbyist, succeeded Lavin as Bush’s final undersecretary of commerce for international trade.
Asked about the letter, Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., said he was disappointed to see former government advisers failing to disclose that “they’re on the take.”
Other TPP critics say that the letter is indicative of a recurring problem. “I guess the main thing that jumps out of me — it’s really kind of the norm. I’m not saying that’s good,” said Center for Economic and Policy Research co-director Dean Baker. He said he’s seen pro-TPP opinion columns that fail disclose similar conflicts of interest.
On Friday, the U.S. Senate passed trade promotion authority, the “fast-track” bill Obama requested to make passage of the actual agreement easier. After the vote, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that the House “will take up this measure,” but did not specify when.
Despite calls by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to oppose the agreement, Clinton has not taken a definitive position on the accord.
View the letter below:
Dear Members of Congress,
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a defining test for American political and economic leadership in the Asia-Pacific region. It is a critical indicator of U.S. investment in this dynamic region. The TPP promises to bring together 12 states on both sides of the Pacific in a landmark trade agreement that would set new terms for regional integration, help open previously closed markets, establish significant labor and environmental protections, and address important 21st Century issues such as intellectual property rights and state-owned enterprises. Increasingly, the TPP is seen by the region as the cornerstone of an effective U.S. engagement strategy for the Asia-Pacific region.
This agreement, if concluded, has the potential to become among the most consequential and trend-setting trade agreements in history, providing a framework for effective interaction among the dynamic economies of the region. According to the Peterson Institute for International Economics, the free trade enabled by TPP could generate up to $1,922 billion, or 1.9% of world GDP. Strong trade and investment ties between the United States and Asia help provide the necessary foundation for deeper political and security partnerships.
We, the undersigned, represent decades of foreign policy service, commitment and experience in Asia under eight Presidents spanning both Republican and Democratic Administrations. To expedite the passage of the TPP, we strongly encourage Congress to provide Trade Promotion Authority to the President in order to rapidly conclude negotiations.
April 28, 2015
The Honorable Kurt Campbell, former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
The Honorable Richard Armitage, former Deputy Secretary of State Ambassador Jeffrey Bader, former Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs at the National Security Council
Ambassador Robert Blackwill, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Planning
Dr. Richard Bush, former Managing Director of the American Institute in Taiwan
The Honorable Victor Cha, former Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council
The Honorable Eliot Cohen, former Counselor of the Department of State
Ralph A. Cossa, President of the Pacific Forum CSIS