One of the more amusing aspects of the finalised Trans Pacific Partnership treaty is its emphasis on “transparency”. This detailed summary of the treaty mentions “transparency” or “transparent” no less than 26 times. Indeed, the promotion of transparency is one of the purported goals of the agreement.

There has, of course, been zero transparency in the negotiation of the TPP — unless you’re a major US corporation. The entire process has been conducted with a level of secrecy that has wholly delegitimised the deal and raised fundamental questions about who it is intended to benefit.

And the secrecy continues: despite the agreement being finalised, Australian voters are still not permitted to see the document, and won’t for at least another month. Last night Malcolm Turnbull issued a press release directing journalists to the Department of Foreign Affairs’ website — but the department didn’t bother updating the relevant page until a couple of hours ago, and then only to provide a list of “highlights” of the TPP for Australian companies, leaving us completely in the dark about any detail.

DFAT’s handling of the TPP process has been a disgrace — at one stage they actually barred journalists from attending public “briefings” on the deal. These were merely a fig leaf for the complete lack of transparency of the process.

To find out the extent to which Australian sovereignty will be violated by investor-state dispute settlement processes and how far already draconian US intellectual property restrictions will be extended, Australians have to go to the US Trade Representative site, which at least provided a breakdown of the agreement.

The emphasis on transparency in the TPP is beyond irony: it’s a mockery of citizens and consumers perpetrated by trade bureaucrats who are terrified of their actions being scrutinised.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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