As Joe Biden mulls a presidential bid, and as the White House begins trying to sell congressional lawmakers on the 12-nation trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the vice president’s former top economic adviser today published an analysis of the deal -- and it isn’t pretty. In an essay posted on his website, economist Jared Bernstein says “don’t believe the hype.”
Bernstein, who served as Biden’s aide from 2009 to 2011 and was part of the Obama administration's economic team, specifically flagged the secrecy surrounding the agreement. While he says “there’s a logic” to the idea that confidentiality helps to speed along negotiations, he also says such secrecy means Americans should not blindly trust what the Obama administration and foreign governments are saying about the pact:
The deal has been negotiated in secret so we’ve largely had to rely on what negotiators tell us about it, and since the negotiators are tasked by their governments with selling the deal, such information tends to be pretty one-sided...
The secrecy of the negotiations have created a great deal of distrust with a skeptical public, especially when it’s come out that those who have made it to the bargaining table have tended to come from the multinational corporate sector more than the working class.
In late September, the Obama administration won a court ruling allowing it to exempt the TPP's text from federal open records laws -- at least until the administration submits the deal for a formal congressional vote. At that point, the deal will be made public, and Bernstein’s old boss, Biden, will likely be pressing legislators for passage. Indeed, a Biden aide told Yahoo! News on Monday that the vice president "supports the TPP agreement and will help pass it on the Hill."
As for the merits of the pact, Bernstein says that “from what I’ve seen so far, the language in this deal looks like that of past deals, including ones I’ve worked on myself.” He adds: “I greet claims that the TPP will boost American growth and jobs with a healthy dose of skepticism.”