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Secrecy, Spying Shouldn’t Be Associated With TPP

There is no shortage of good reasons to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Whether it’s the potential job losses, the unfair labor conditions or the unsafe food and products coming from overseas, many of these matters have been discussed over and over. But two recent revelations now raise issues on a different front – secrecy and surveillance.

WikiLeaks earlier this week released an August draft of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the TPP that makes it clear the U.S. is carrying the water for large holders of copyright and patent rights, including drug companies. While the contents of the 95-page document may not be a surprise, it reiterates the fact that Americans are being kept in the dark about what their country is advocating as part of the 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal.

It also shows that our country’s government wants to include language in the trade proposal that would harm its residents. “If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons,” WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange said. “If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its cross hairs.”

In a staff editorial published by WikiLeaks today, the group notes the U.S. and Australia are the most aligned when it comes to pushing pro-corporate and anti-Internet positions in the TPP. It argues it is time for citizens to have their say. “The IP Chapter has entered the public domain where the entirety of the draft TPP belongs,” it wrote.  “It is for the public, Congress and the Internet to consider the Trans-Pacific Partnership on its merits and decide whether it should sink or swim.”

Then there is the question about whether the government is coming after organizations that are raising concerns about the trade agreement. Referencing a New York Times article published earlier this month that made clear the National Security Agency is going to great lengths to tap into sources that interact with federal authorities, 38 groups sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman this week asking if they are being targeted.

“Core American principles ranging from the right to privacy to the right to petition our government are at stake,” they wrote. “Simply put, we believe that our organizations – as well as others advocating on trade policy matters – have right to an assurance that their operations are not under surveillance by U.S. government agencies. We trust you agree.”

Taken together, both issues don’t paint a pretty picture of Washington. The public deserves to know about important issues that affect them and this nation and those who are seeking answers from our government should not have to worry about coming under its microscope merely for asking questions. America is better than that, and elected officials should stand for such basic freedoms.

The Teamsters and our allies on trade issues take the stand we do because we care about working people and want them to continue to have good jobs with access to safe food and products. We and regular Americans are not the enemy of government. They should stop treating us like we are.