130 Members of Congress Speak Out Against Secrecy in TPP Negotiations
130 Members of Congress Speak Out Against Secrecy in TPP Negotiations
130 Members of Congress Speak Out Against Secrecy in TPP Negotiations

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    Over 130 members of the House of Representatives have signed
    a letter to
    the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk asking for more
    transparency in the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.
    Chief among their concerns was the lack of consultation with Congress.

    Given the broad range of policies the TPP is expected to
    impact—including those outside the realm of “traditional trade matters” such as
    innovation, regulation, the Internet, and intellectual property—their concern
    is well founded.

    The 130 Representatives urge the USTR to “engage in broader
    and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of
    Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the wide-ranging issues involved.” Since
    the US would be obligated to comply with the norms established by the TPP, the
    Representatives rightly express concern for the long-term implications of its
    content. Not only would the US need to alter existing law, but wouldn’t be able
    to change those laws in the future without re-negotiating the TPP.

    The letter also compares the level of consultation with
    Congress to the level of consultation with private business interests.  Businesses have significantly greater access
    to proposed TPP text than not only small businesses and civil society, but Congress
    itself. While allowing industries to present their perspective is not bad
    policy, doing so while shutting out the public’s voice is.

    In the letter, the Representatives ask for a copy of the confidentiality
    agreement that the USTR signed with other negotiating countries and an
    explanation of how the agreement came to be imposed. The letter also points to
    similar trade agreements that have been released as full drafts to the public
    to allow for comment, and urges the USTR to work with other countries to agree
    to release copies of the negotiating text to the public.

    A similar
    was released by a group of senators on Monday. That letter spoke in
    broader terms about the importance of transparency in trade agreement
    negotiations. It also provided a number of recommendations: first, that the
    Industry Trade Advisory Committee for Intellectual Property Rights be expanded
    to include civil society as well as industry representatives, and second, that
    an additional committee be created to focus on internet freedom.

    PK has also criticized
    the TPP negotiations for a lack of transparency. While the USTR claims to
    provide a forum for input from civil society through stakeholder events, the
    value of such input is significantly diminished when the participating
    organizations do not have access to negotiating documents.

    Other than guessing what provisions will be or accessing leaked
    documents, stakeholders have no way to know when provisions will affect them.
    Increased transparency is vital to allowing participation from the public.
    Although increased transparency toward Congress is an important step, these
    documents must also be available to the public if trade policy is to reflect
    the will of the people.