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

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