Thursday, May 24, 2012


If I hear the word "stakeholder" out of USTR one more time I’m going to puke.

All throughout last week’s TransPacific Partnership negotiations in Dallas, no word was mentioned more than "stakeholder" – to justify US support for some stances and not others that Washington wants to take.

"Stakeholder" – what does it mean? In practical terms, according to Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach – a "stakeholder" herself – it means someone who is invited to a reception, maybe a lunch and a brief session with US negotiators. And an opportunity to present their own views on the issues in the negotiations.

But there is no real sharing of information, such as a meaningful description of text language on the negotiating table. The latter is reserved for a higher level of "stakeholder" – cleared trade policy advisers.

Ms. Wallach says the cleared advisers number some 1,000 business executives and 10 representatives from labor and a small handful from the environmental sector.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, "stakeholder" means a person entrusted with the stakes of bettors, one that has a stake in an enterprise or one who is involved in or affected by a course of action.

I would rather think that "stakeholder" means the person that holds the stake for another to drive into the heart of a vampire.

Mention "lobbyist" as a synonym for "stakeholder" – as I did during the TPP negotiations – and officials go wild. No, no, no!!! How could I say that. Lobbyists are what we and the President are trying to get away from.

Merriam-Webster defines lobbyist as someone who promotes as a project or secures the passage of legislation by influencing public officials or attempts to influence or sway a public official toward a desired action.

Actually, the term lobbying grew out of the habit of office seekers in a corrupt post-Civil War Washington to gain access to President Grant – who was in the habit of playing poker in Willard’s Hotel in Washington. They hung around the lobby to gain his attention.

In real terms – according to this Washington reporter of 30 years – stakeholders in Dallas looked a lot like modern-day "K Street" lobbyists in Washington, D.C.

Here’s an idea. Why doesn’t the Administration do what is in the "public interest."

According to the web-based business dictionary "public interest" means the welfare of the general public – in contrast to the selfish interest of a person, group or firm – in which the whole society has a stake and which warrants recognition, promotion and protection by the government and its agencies. That sounds pretty good, but I haven’t heard it from this Administration so far.

The bottom line is that US negotiators should be focusing on what is in the overall interests of the American people, rather than stakeholders like the National Association of Manufactures, the Ford Motor Company, the Motion Pictures Association of America, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, the National Retail Federation, the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Textile Organizations, the American Apparel and Footwear Association, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Get my point?


Jim Berger

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A 21st Century Trade Agreement; A 21st Century Protest

They are calling it – the nine-nation TransPacific Partnership trade negotiation – a work in progress toward the world’s first 21st Century trade agreement. The 12th round of formal negotiations are just about to end.

The start was something. An opening reception – which actually took place three days after negotiators started work – got off with brief remarks from US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who mostly bragged about the town that he once commanded as a two-term mayor.

But the activity quickly turned "21st Century" when a well-tailored, geeky-looking actor assumed the podium following Mr. Kirk’s remarks to give him a "corporate power tool award" plaque honoring him for his great work of promoting a one-world society dominated by giant corporations.

And, boy, did the USTR fall for it. Even after stepping off the podium, Mr. Kirk turned around to accept the award when one of his Secret Service handlers held him back. The whole thing can be seen on Youtube – .

Being a conservative myself, I would have preferred an old-fashioned 20th Century "cream pie in the face" protest.


That was only one scam perpetuated here by the "Occupy" group. When delegates – and this reporter – entered their room at the Intercontinental Hotel somewhere in nondescript North Dallas they found an official looking paper had been slipped under the door welcoming the delegates. It read –


On behalf of the people of Texas and the U.S., we hope that you enjoy your stay in our city.

We hope that you have slept well because you will need your maximum energy to stand strong against what are unfortunately extreme USTR proposals that privilege the 1% over the 99% in our country and around the world.

Americans support affordable medicine, safe food, good jobs, Internet freedom and capital controls and oppose new monopoly rights for drug firms to raise prices and extreme investor privileges and investor-state tribunals. We believe that the public and press in all of our countries should have full information about policies that will shape our futures, including access to the draft TPP texts. A full draft text of the Free Trade Area of the Americas was released in 2001.

The people in the USA join our counterparts in all TPP countries in opposing the extreme positions promoted by our government. We are counting on you to stand firm to protect your country’s sovereignty as well as the rights of the residents of all of the nine TPP nations who will live with the results of your negotiations.




This reporter gave it a brief glance without reading beyond the first line and then put it aside – on the top of my in-room refrigerator. (As a professional reporter I never throw anything away.) Later in the afternoon I met a friend in the lobby who asked if I had seen the presentation. I said yes and she immediately told me what it said.

I left the lobby and went back to my room to read it more carefully. Lo-and-behold, it was nowhere to be found. I found it disturbing since I was sure I did not misplace the paper or throw it away. The only answer was that the maids at the hotel were told to take the papers away when they cleaned the rooms.

I find that rather disturbing – representative more of a Mao-era Chinese hotel stay than the Intercontinental in North Dallas.

I told my friend it was no longer there. She doubted my explanation and suggested I had simply misplaced it.

The next day I met a New Zealand negotiator and told him about the incident. He said that was strange because he had wanted to keep the "welcoming letter" as a souvenir, placing it on his desk. He told me he went back to the room and it was gone.

Not funny. In fact this is a very serious issue – to which he agreed.

But what else can you expect from this Administration. I assume that the maids did not take it upon themselves to recover the single-page messages. I rather doubt that the hotel management would have ordered removal of the papers on their own initiative. Therefore, USTR Kirk looks to be the only logical culprit, probably telling the hotel management to get rid of the evidence.

All-in-all. Not funny and a serious affront to what was once respected around the world as American honesty and freedom of speech.

What do you think?

(P.S. Another clever protest. Apparently the occupy protesters also replaced toilet paper rolls in the public hotel restrooms with anti-TPP paper. Now that’s funny.)

Jim Berger