The New York Times editorial board devoted a lengthy Sunday editorial to discussing the merits and demerits of free trade, and being good liberals, they don't discuss how 1994's North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) screwed over Mexico (1, 2, 3). When it comes, however, to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sprawling free trade pact currently being negotiated between 12 countries in secret, they are unsparing:
The Obama administration has revealed so few details about the negotiations, even to members of Congress and their staffs, that it is impossible to fully analyze the Pacific partnership. Negotiators have argued that it’s impossible to conduct trade talks in public because opponents to the deal would try to derail them.
But the administration’s rationale for secrecy seems to apply only to the public. Big corporations are playing an active role in shaping the American position because they are on industry advisory committees to the United States trade representative, Michael Froman. By contrast, public interest groups have seats on only a handful of committees that negotiators do not consult closely.
That lopsided influence is dangerous, because companies are using trade agreements to get special benefits that they would find much more difficult to get through the standard legislative process.
Capitalism is a bizarro world, isn't it? Why is something that concentrates power in the hands of corporate bosses behind a veil and does an end run around democracy commonly described as "free" trade?