(This post is from our new blog: Unofficial Sources.)
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., today blasted the secrecy shrouding the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.
“They said, well, it’s very transparent. Go down and look at it,” said Boxer on the floor of the Senate. “Let me tell you what you have to do to read this agreement. Follow this: you can only take a few of your staffers who happen to have a security clearance — because, God knows why, this is secure, this is classified. It has nothing to do with defense. It has nothing to do with going after ISIS.”
Boxer, who has served in the House and Senate for 33 years, then described the restrictions under which members of Congress can look at the current TPP text.
“The guard says, ‘you can’t take notes.’ I said, ‘I can’t take notes?’” Boxer recalled. “‘Well, you can take notes, but have to give them back to me, and I’ll put them in a file.’ So I said: ‘Wait a minute. I’m going to take notes and then you’re going to take my notes away from me and then you’re going to have them in a file, and you can read my notes? Not on your life.’”
Watch the video below:
Boxer noted at the start of her speech that she hoped opponents of the trade promotion authority bill — the so-called fast-track legislation required to advance the TPP — would be able to block the bill via a filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is expected to file a motion to invoke cloture on the measure later this afternoon.
“Instead of standing in a corner, trying to figure out a way to bring a trade bill to the floor that doesn’t do anything for the middle class — that is held so secretively that you need to go down there and hand over your electronics and give up your right to take notes and bring them back to your office — they ought to come over here and figure out how to help the middle class,” Boxer said.
In 2012, U.S. chief TPP negotiator Barbara Weisel said that “constantly evolving TPP chapter texts cannot be released to the public.” The same year, then-U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk claimed that secrecy was justified because openness and debate last decade killed talks surrounding the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
Sam Knight is a writer and reporter living in Washington, D.C. He is the co-founder of the watchdog news site The District Sentinel.