By Elaine Magliaro
“A Corporate Trojan Horse”: Critics Decry Secretive TPP Trade Deal as a Threat to Democracy
Lee Fang has an important article about the agency that is overseeing trade deals for the United States over at The Intercept. According to Fang, The Intercept obtained disclosure forms which show that the Office of the United Trade Representative “is being led by former lobbyists for corporations that stand to benefit from the deals.” That’s probably no surprise to those of us who are aware of the “revolving door” syndrome that afflicts many agencies of our federal government.
Fang said that the Obama administration has been pushing hard to complete two trade deals: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is a proposed free trade accord between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is a similar agreement between the U.S. and the E.U.
Critics—including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alan Grayson—have warned about the negative impact that these trade deals will have on the United States…and on its people. Some critics “say the deals will provide corporate interests with sweeping powers to challenge banking and environmental regulations.”
In his article, Lee Fang provided information about three major figures in the Trade Representative’s office, which was gleaned from their disclosure forms.
— Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, the assistant U.S. trade representative for agricultural affairs, recently lobbied for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade group for biotech companies. Lauritsen’s financial disclosure form shows she made $320,193 working to influence “state, federal and international governments” on biotech patent and intellectual property issues. She worked for BIO as an executive vice president through April of 2011, before joining the Trade Representative office.
— Christopher Wilson, the deputy chief of mission to the World Trade Organization, recently worked for C&M International, a trade consulting group, where he represented Chevron, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, British American Tobacco, General Electric, Apple and other corporate interests. Wilson’s financial disclosure shows he made $250,000 a year, in addition to an $80,000 bonus in 2013, before he joined the Obama administration. Wilson left C&M International in February of 2014 and later joined the Trade Representative’s office. C&M International reportedly lobbied Malaysia, urging it to oppose tobacco regulations in Australia.
— Robert Holleyman, the deputy United States trade representative, previously worked as the president of the Business Software Alliance, a lobbying group that represents IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, Apple and other technology companies seeking to strengthen copyright law. Holleyman earned $1,141,228 at BSA before his appointment. Holleyman was nominated for his current position in February of last year.
These disclosures about the revolving door at the trade agency come after U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman received scrutiny over a special bonus paid to him in 2009 after he left Citigroup to join the Obama administration as deputy assistant to the president. Froman received more than $7.4 million from Citi in the year prior to joining the administration.
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