Over 400 Groups, Representing 15 Million People, Demand 'New Direction' From USTR In TPP Negotiations
from the time-for-a-change dept
We find it troubling that, even as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement enters its 16th major round of negotiations this March in Singapore, U.S. negotiators still refuse to inform the American public what they have been proposing in our names. Shielding not only proposals, but agreed-upon texts from public view until after negotiations have concluded and the pact is finalized is not consistent with democratic principles. In this regard, the TPP appears to be even less transparent than some past trade negotiations. For example, in 2001, the United States joined with 33 other countries in releasing draft text of the Free Trade Area of the Americans, and draft texts within the World Trade Organization are frequently made available.In terms of specifics, the letter asks Congress to reject the "Fast Track" authority that the USTR has been requesting. Congress, technically, is supposed to be in charge of regulating commerce with foreign nations. The USTR is seeking fast track authority because, without it, these negotiations and the resulting agreement have no basis in law.
Instead, the letter argues that Congress needs to rein in the USTR, to require them to be more open and public, to actually consult with the public, and to make sure that Congress will review the final agreement to ensure it is in the public's interest, rather than in the interest of a few select "industry advisory committees" whom the USTR relies on. Frankly, the letter could have been a lot stronger, but I'm guessing it needed to be slightly watered down to get all those groups to sign. Still, this letter isn't just from "the usual" public interest groups who have been complaining about TPP all along, and suggests that if the USTR continues on this secretive path, there is likely to be strong opposition from the public. We've suggested in the past that the USTR's failure to recognize why ACTA failed in Europe may come back to haunt them with the TPP, and this letter is yet another warning sign. Unfortunately, given the USTR's past behavior, it's likely to be a warning sign that is, once again, ignored.