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So I was bothered to learn that while negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact were taking place near my home in Leesburg, I couldn't participate in--or even observe--the talks. This pact, the largest one ever conceived, could affect nearly every aspect of our lives, but its draft texts were available to only a few negotiators and a handful of advisers. Negotiations were conducted behind closed doors.
The trade pact is extremely important to the Sierra Club's 1.4 million members--and all people--since it could subject environmental and public-interest laws and safeguards to attack by foreign corporations; threaten our air and water with toxic pollution; and lead to more American jobs being shipped overseas.
On Sept. 9, I drove to the Lansdowne Resort where negotiators were helping to write trade rules. I spoke at a rally outside the resort about the environmental implications of the pact. But we were sequestered in a small patch of land half a mile from the building where negotiators met and surrounded by an unnecessarily large cohort of armed police officers.
Those who registered with U.S. Trade Representative were able to attend a stakeholders' briefing, but how is it possible to offer "constructive comments" on a text we've never seen? This kind of concealment doesn't allow a real conversation about how to engage in responsible trade.
Government officials tout the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a "21st-century agreement"--but there's nothing innovative about keeping the public in the dark.
We must restore basic principles of democracy to protect the public and the environment.
President, Sierra Club