If any single corner of U.S. policymaking is more corporate owned than trade policy, I don't know of it. There isn't even pretense about it -- corporate lobbyists draft, sculpt and finalize our trade policy, which is why we have a trade policy that has simultaneously destroyed our economy and driven down international labor, environmental and wage standards.
All of this we know -- but rarely do we get an honest, straightforward declaration that this is truly the case. Sure, there's wink-and-nod admissions, but it's a true rarity to see the politicians and lobbyists who write trade policy officially admit that they believe trade policymaking isn't even a matter the public should be allowed to see, much less challenge.
That's why this Bloomberg News story about the negotiations over the proposed South Korea Free Trade Agreement -- and our efforts to force South Korea to accept our own weaker environmental and safety standards -- is so important:
Oct. 29 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is asking South Korea to accept American automobile safety and emissions standards in an effort to advance a free-trade agreement, according to three people briefed on the talks.
Under the proposal, if American-made automobiles meet U.S. regulatory standards, South Korea would have to permit the vehicles to be sold in that nation, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are private.
Sure, you might try to buttress the American delegation's arguments -- and those arguments may have merit. But you can't because those arguments aren't even allowed to be heard in public. Indeed, that's the deeper and far more disturbing point here beyond the merits of the trade arguments being made.
Because these negotiations are so concealed, we can safely assume that Bloomberg is quoting some mix of government and corporate sources. Which means that these policymakers are officially stating their belief that negotiations between two democratic nations -- negotiations in which one is trying to weaken emissions/safety standards of another -- are not public matters, but entirely "private."
This is about the most frank -- if disgusting -- admission I've ever seen about who trade policymakers think they serve, and how, really, they see the world. Public policy is not made for the public in public -- it is made in "private" and for "private" interests. It's right there in black and white.