The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that was agreed by trade ministers from US, Japan and ten other countries will not be made public for four years - whether or not it goes on to be passed by Congress and other member nations.
If ratified by US Congress and other member nations, TPP will bulldoze through trade barriers and standardise international rules on labour and the environment for the 12 nations, which make up 40 per cent of the world’s economic output.
But the details of how it will do this are enshrined in secrecy.
Politicians and ordinary people have been largely excluded from TPP negotiations, leaving it in the hands of multinational corporations.
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, said that the contents of the deal have been kept secret to avoid potential opposition. Wikileaks has leaked three of the 29 chapters of the TPP agreement. One section on intellectual property rights was published in November 2013, another on the environment was published in January 2014 and one on investment was published in March 2015.
John Hilary, the executive director the political organisation War On Want, said the result is that nobody knows what’s being negotiated. “You have these far reaching deals that are going to change the face of our economies and societies know nothing about it,” Hilary said in an interview posted on the Wikileaks channel in August.
The US trade representative’s office keeps trade documents secret because they are considered matters of national security, according to Margot E. Kaminski, an assistant professor of law at the Ohio State University and an affiliated fellow of the Yale Information Society. The representatives claim that negotiating documents are “foreign government information” even though some may have been drafted by US officials.
When Australian and New Zealand trade representatives asked to view the texts, they were asked to sign an agreement promising to keep it secret for at least four years “to facilitate candid and productive negotiations”, according to a document leaked by the Guardian.