Whether it’s the Financial Times, the New York Times, the Dubuque Telegraph Herald or a newsletter like Washington Trade Daily, reporting is serious business.
Mistakes can be made, but they must be inadvertent and quickly corrected. Otherwise, serious mistakes can have serious ramifications.
At a well-attended forum of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars last week which focused on the ongoing TransPacific Partnership negotiations, one Mexico participant – gladly not a negotiator or government official – explained that Mexico City, and especially members of the Mexican Senate, were perturbed over a comment by chief US negotiator Barbara Weisel.
In remarks in San Diego to the University of California’s Americas Institute at the beginning of the last formal round of TPP negotiations in July, Inside US Trade reported that the official stated that when – and if – Japan decides to the link up to an anticipated completed TPP agreement, the text would be opened for renegotiation.
The Mexican trade consultant said the problem seen in Mexico City is that while late-comers like itself and Canada would not be able to even discuss "agreed" aspects of an uncompleted agreement, Japan would have a "carte blanche" to essentially reopen the negotiations when it joins.
What Ms. Weisel said at the open forum was that any prospective new entrant to a final accord – including Japan – could bring to the "table" issues that are of particular interest to itself. If the other signatories agree, those issues could be subject to negotiation, possibly resulting in the changes to the final text.
The US trade official responded to a question from the audience about how Japan’s entry would be handled.
WTD took pity on the rooky trade reporter and told him what Ms. Weisel actually said. Writing wrote what he said he would write would result in a correction or retraction, we advised.
The reporter essentially told WTD to mind our own business. He said since the chief US negotiator had cited Japan as an example of what could happen when a new members joins, "she meant Japan." He was sticking to the story.
USTR staff told other reporters covering the negotiations that the Inside Trade story was wrong. Inside Trade never carried a correction.
Last week Inside US Trade was roundly congratulated at the Woodrow Wilson center event – including from its supposedly informed staff of experts – for having a major "scoop." In fact, the Inside Trade story was poop.
WTD – unlike Inside US Trade – takes it reporting responsibilities seriously.