STUDY: Media Leave Viewers In The Dark About Trans-Pacific Partnership

››› ››› BRIAN POWELL & CRAIG HARRINGTON

Congress is debating whether to give the president the authority to fast-track a massive free trade agreement -- the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- between the U.S., Canada, and 10 nations from the Asia-Pacific region. The nations involved in the talks account for nearly 40 percent of the world's GDP and 26 percent of the world's trade, but weekday evening television news broadcasts have largely ignored the topic.

What Is The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

Wash. Post's Wonkblog: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Is A "Giant Free Trade Deal Covering Everything From Financial Services To Telecommunications To Sanitary Standards For Food." From The Washington Post's Wonkblog:

Basically, [TPP] is a giant free trade deal between the U.S., Canada, and 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region that's been under negotiation for nearly a decade now (it began as an agreement between Singapore, Chile, New Zealand and Brunei before the U.S. took the lead in 2009). It's expected to eliminate tariffs on goods and services, tear down a host of non-tariff barriers and harmonize all sorts of regulations when it's finished early next year.

[...]

The countries currently party to the agreement -- currently including Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Canada, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, most critically Japan and potentially Korea -- are some of the U.S.' biggest and fastest-growing commercial partners, accounting for $1.5 trillion worth of trade in goods in 2012 and $242 billion worth of services in 2011. They're responsible for 40 percent of the world's GDP and 26 percent of the world's trade.

[...]

The treaty has 29 chapters, dealing with everything from financial services to telecommunications to sanitary standards for food. [The Washington Post, Wonkblog, 12/11/13]

United States Trade Representative: Trans-Pacific Partnership "Most Significant Trade Negotiation In A Generation." According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the Trans-Pacific Partnership is "the most significant trade negotiation in a generation." As of 2012, the Trans-Pacific Partnership would join twelve member states along the Pacific Rim, representing nearly 800 million citizens, and 39 percent of global GDP. [Office of the United States Trade Representative, 12/10/13]

Obama: Completing Trade Negotiations Is A Priority. President Obama has made the successful completion of negotiations between TPP members, as well as unrelated negotiations on a similar trade pact between the United States and European Union, a central focus of his second-term policy agenda. On January 28, the president highlighted the importance of ongoing negotiations in his State of the Union address:

THE PRESIDENT: Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other. And when ninety-eight percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment, and open new markets to new goods stamped "Made in the USA." China and Europe aren't standing on the sidelines. Neither should we. [The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 1/28/14]

Why Does The TPP Matter Right Now?

Congress Is Currently Debating A Bill That Would Grant The President Expedited Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). According to a January 30 Reuters article, President Obama is at odds with Democratic and Republican lawmakers in both houses of Congress concerning reauthorizing a procedure called the "trade promotion authority" (TPA). The TPA is a formal legal authority granted to the president by Congress, which allows the White House to fast-track international treaty negotiations with foreign partners, bypassing most congressional review:

A bill before the House and Senate would grant the White House power to submit free trade deals to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments, something that would give trading partners peace of mind but that raises hackles among some lawmakers.

Add to that the genuine mistrust among some Democrats about the impact of trade deals on local jobs and industry and environmental standards, and it's a volatile mix.

With two major free trade deals hanging in the balance, the U.S. administration now faces even more pressure to win over skeptics on both sides of politics to pass trade promotion authority (TPA) as the electoral clock ticks down. [Reuters, 1/30/14]

Network Nightly News Has Ignored The TPP

Over The Past Six Months, Network Evening News Shows Have Completely Ignored The TPP. A Media Matters transcript search of CBS Evening News with Scott Pelly, ABC's World News with Diane Sawyer, and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams from August 1, 2013 through January 31, 2014 found no mention of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. TPP received one mention on PBS' Newshour, when Doug Paal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argued that approving the TPP would improve relations with Asian nations.

Weekday Evening Cable Programs Mostly Silent On Trade Negotiations

Cable Networks Largely Overlook Trade Negotiations. During the same six-month period, the three largest cable networks -- CNN, MSNBC, Fox News -- covered the ongoing negotiations 33 times during their evening programming. The overwhelming majority of these mentions (32) originated on MSNBC and aired during The Ed Show.

Methodology

Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening (defined as 5 p.m. through 11 p.m.) weekday programs on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and network broadcast news (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS) from August 1, 2013 through January 31, 2014. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: pacific partnership or trans-pacific or tpp or trans-pacific partnership or transpacific partnership.

The following programs were included in the data: PBS Newshour, World News with Diane Sawyer, Evening News (CBS), Nightly News with Brian Williams, The Situation Room, Crossfire, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, Piers Morgan Live, The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox Report with Shepard Smith, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The Kelly File, The Ed Show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air re-runs, only the first airing was included in data retrieval.

Media Matters included all segments that mentioned the Trans-Pacific Partnership (or "TPP") by name, regardless of the substance or tone of the commentary. We did not include teasers or clips of news events, or re-broadcasts of news packages that were already counted on their initial broadcast in the 5 p.m.-11 p.m. window.

Posted In
Economy, Trade
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, MSNBC, PBS, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN
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